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Last Weekend Reviews Part 1

05 Sep

Last weekend being a bank holiday weekend, had me out enjoying life with a couple of mates before a week of night shifts hence my silence of late. Instead of running down our trail of destruction, pillage and debauchery like I usually would, this time I’ll be reviewing two of the pastimes of the weekend that polarised my opinions.

The first was watching Straight Outta Compton, I had high hopes for this biopic of ‘the world’s most dangerous group’ which were sadly dashed fairly early on.   For those not familiar with N.W.A., they were an immensely talented group around from 86-91 who revolutionised Hip-Hop with visceral social commentary as well as some interesting moral values, or lack there of.  Their notoriety stemming from their standing up to an institutionally racist police force and giving a platform to how life was on their streets of Compton.

The film’s running time is two and a half hours so I accept things have to move quickly but the Genesis of the band and the subsequent successes and seemingly meteoric rise to fame felt like they were achieved with no real struggles or setbacks apart from the odd run in with the police, which felt pretty unrealistic.   With such a speedy introduction the protagonist’s histories weren’t given much of a look in and there was little sense of fleshing out as a result.

The gigs are wonderful though, there is a feeling of the energy which their stage presence undoubtedly generated coupled with the obvious talent and ability they had.  This coming out of adversity and driving anger, telling it how it is in a raw way is very well done and having listened to the albums for a number of years, there are some mighty catchy tracks from these lyrical poets.

It was a waiting game for it all to go wrong but that just wasn’t balanced with much in the way of underlying tension, the greed and creative differences just sort of pop up in sequence as it were, rather than being in the background brooding and slow burning before the inevitable clashes.  The main problem of the film for me though is how awkward it feels in certain parts, where instead of using subtlety chooses to stick a massive great signpost into a foundation of clunky dialogue because as an audience we are obviously too unintelligent to understand the nuances what it happening.

Since watching The Wire (of which a review will becoming soon(ish)) scenes of the nature with police interacting with people in areas known for drugs and gangs need to be utterly realistic for me to invest in them and these were sadly not that.  There was little impact for me because I have been spoilt with high calibre writing and acting, which is not to say the actors don’t do well, although the police were just far to one-dimensional to warrant comment.  There was a mention of Rodney King and the subsequent riots but these weren’t built upon in the film as themes but more of just as something going on at the time which would have been great opportunity for some sneaky up to date social commentary but was sadly missed.

It wasn’t a bad movie by any stretch, I enjoyed it whilst it was on but on further scrutiny it didn’t have as much to it as documentary would have.  A simple one sentence voice over could achieve so much more in a shorter time and would still have been lucid on the main points with context whilst being objective to all players involved.  In fact the documentary N.W.A.: The World’s Most Dangerous Group is much better and is on YouTube if you have a spare hour.

The timing of the film is interesting with all the well documented race troubles involving the police and the black community over in America, shows that despite the impact of the band at the time, the nervousness of the authorities and the embracing of the general public, nothing seems to have changed, which perhaps says something for our society.

Now don’t get me wrong, it would be stupid of me to single out anybody specifically because it is a problem that needs to be tackled by all.  For all the good N.W.A. did bringing the injustices people suffer to a wider base, they also glamorised drugs and the gangster life which is part of the problem but then so is the lack of education on all sides and the need to target the most in need in society and help them after, all you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Soapbox now firmly stepped off, so to sum up, it’s not the masterpiece some people are claiming but is a decent watch if you don’t expect too much from it, it could have been shorn of the exposition scenes and perhaps paced better but after all that, the group remain a seminal and fascinating act that changed the music scene with a history worth discovering however you choose to do so.

Whilst making a cuppa, it occurred to me that the people against the message N.W.A. were trying to get across, was misunderstood by people who would have been highly educated, politicians, religious figures etc.  These people reacted negatively to the music but clearly didn’t understand the situation that pushed the group to present themselves like they did with what I can only describe as street eloquence.  I suppose the term highly educated really is subjective and it pays to understand somebody or something before making a judgement.

Unsurprisingly this film has swearing, some drugs and a bit of screen time with women as sexual objects.

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35 Comments

Posted by on 05/09/2015 in Films, Music, Politics

 

Tags: , , , ,

35 responses to “Last Weekend Reviews Part 1

  1. gargoylebruce

    06/09/2015 at 05:22

    Women as sexual objects? In Hip-Hop? Surely you jest.
    I wouldn’t have picked you as a gangsta-rapper type. Just goes to show you shouldn’t judge a CD by its cover. Given that MP3s don’t have covers.

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    • Ste J

      06/09/2015 at 13:22

      Vinyl, that was where cover art was best! I like to mix my music like I do my books, although sometimes I have to reign in my desire to talk like a gangsta when at work, which is always a challenge.

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  2. Jeff

    06/09/2015 at 12:20

    I remember seeing the documentary you’ve linked to on YouTube. It got me looking up the band at the time as well as listening to some clips. Not my kind of music, but I do like the way they reported directly on their lives without trying to perfuming their culture with a ‘positive thinking’ message (Ice Cube’s later stuff comes to mind here). Saying it how it was was bound to rub up against moralisers. Yet how else could life for black Americans have been known about beyond their neighbourhoods? Wasn’t this the time when Dances With Wolves was made? That film became widely acceptable, arguably, because it was a white guilt narrative. Pity there wasn’t a native American cinematic version of black hip-hop. A minority putting its own views out by itself is always going to challenge culture and power that much more.
    Good to see you posting again btw!

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    • Ste J

      06/09/2015 at 13:39

      I’ve had a week of night shifts and the bank holiday was spent at the national Gaming Museum and the pub, I spent a few days blankly trying to form coherent sentences but then I gave up and tried to blog instead which meant clicking on the Guardian crossword and doing that until I had no time to write.

      If N.W.A. had gone for something less aggressive, then the interest, press and just general listeners wouldn’t have found it as memorable and would have been easier to sweep under the carpet. It says something that white Americans not only were shielded from the realities of life but also found something that resonated with them.

      I remember Dances With Wolves, not sure I ever made it to the end of that one though. White guilt seems to be trendy these days, which seems strange, there is nothing we can do to change the past, perhaps films should focus on a near future setting and propose ways to make equality and tolerance real things and not just buzzwords.

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      • Jeff

        07/09/2015 at 19:54

        I’m going to keep my eye out for some secondhand CDs of this stuff. I’m sure we had a copy of Fear of a Black Planet in Oxfam recently. I almost put the CD on for a listen. Tricky really!

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        • Ste J

          07/09/2015 at 21:19

          CDs almost seem quaint nowadays and remember minidiscs, the next big thing! I just put some Public Enemy on YouTube and it isn’t the same thing but still a good blast from the past.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  3. Andrea Stephenson

    06/09/2015 at 20:14

    Interesting Ste – it’s not a film I probably would have watched, but it’s something I might consider now that I know it’s not just a movie about a band – without letting my expectations get too high if I start to hear the hype!

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    • Ste J

      06/09/2015 at 20:23

      Although the band naturally take centre stage, there is enough social commentary in the background to make it an interesting watch, however if it is social commentary you want then The wire is the TV show you want to watch. The problem with mainstream films is some critics seem obliged to hype them and the paying public agree which bewilders me sometimes, still each to their own.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Andrea Stephenson

        06/09/2015 at 20:24

        I tried it Ste, I really did, but I couldn’t get on with it….

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        • Ste J

          06/09/2015 at 20:28

          It’s a slow burner, it took me five or so episodes before it all clicked and I knew who was who. It is worth it if you can et through to that point, each series tackles a different theme as well so it keeps it fresh. I will be reviewing it in the next month or two in an attempt to encourage you to try it again!

          Liked by 1 person

           
          • Andrea Stephenson

            06/09/2015 at 20:47

            Well, you often encourage me to try something new, so I’ll wait for that review!

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            • Ste J

              06/09/2015 at 20:49

              It’s going to be a two parter…I have a lot to say lol. I like encouraging people to different things and I don’t even expect tips.

              Liked by 1 person

               
  4. Resa

    06/09/2015 at 21:21

    Thanks for the excellent review! I will watch the movie, but I’ll wait until it’s on the movie channel. I have a very big screen TV., which after your review of this film seems like it will be big enough.
    I like the rap/vid you chose for the post.
    I keep thinking that so much of the racial tension in America goes back to slavery. The vid opens with slaves & the master on a horse with a whip. Then in the street the cop is on a horse with a stick.
    Slow going in this area.
    I saw a great film last night. It is called “Kidnap Capital” and is about human trafficking in America. It was made for 200 thousand dollars only. Riveting, eye opening, chilling and on and on! IMHO, it’s a masterpiece It’s been accepted into the San Diego Film Festival, but didn’t make the Toronto Festival cut.
    Now the refugee crisis across Europe …. well, it seems man’s inhumanity to man is ever prevalent.
    As you say, weakest link theory shows us that man is only as civilized as the least civilized.

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    • Ste J

      07/09/2015 at 21:39

      The video was probably the most…’family friendly’ one for the blog.

      I will keep an eye out for Kidnap Capital, films done all on a budget always feel better, more real. The refugee crisis is interesting, it will be interesting to see how the influx changes nations and hopefully those nations not taking many refugees will be highlighted. Peace and repatriation now need to be the priority methinks.

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      • Resa

        07/09/2015 at 22:23

        Peace has been a must my entire lifetime. I’m hoping to see it before my time is up! & Peace to you!

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  5. tomrobinsonz

    07/09/2015 at 21:30

    For such a notorious hip-hop group the film had a very glossy artificial feel, and rarely went to any lengths to demonstrate the negative sides of the life and environment in which these musicians resided. Dre comes off as a polished hip hop genius who in scenes likes to pull out beats fully formed and studio ready; there’s never any sense of process, of constructing the art and what the group are truly trying to accomplish. The film doesn’t attempt to clarify why the music spoke to so many people and crossed cultural boundaries, instead the narrative just shouts “these guys are awesome! Look how much everyone loves them!”

    The only character who felt like a real person was Ice Cube, played convincingly by his son, there is a danger and recklessness in his eyes that hints at the groups nebulous morality and the whole thing concludes with what feels like an advert for Dre’s record label Aftermath. The credits feature clips with well known modern hip hop stars (hello Kendrick Lamar!) saying how important and influential NWA were for them, this sums up my thoughts about the piece, always telling. but rarely showing.

    Awesome film review my man! Can’t wait to see what the second one will be.

    Tom

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    • Ste J

      07/09/2015 at 21:58

      Cheers mate, I am not up to your standard yet as the above shows but I will get there. I hope the Lee from work reads this as he has watched it four times and thinks it’s really good. It really was something I wanted to like but as so often is the case, overhype made me expect more and it wasn’t there. Ren and Yella didn’t get much of a look in either!

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  6. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    07/09/2015 at 23:27

    This movie has not been released here, in India. I love watching biopics.The review is quite interesting…will ask one of my friends (he is a cinephile) to search for its torrent version… 🙂

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    • Ste J

      09/09/2015 at 20:23

      Yes save your money and get the torrent for this one, make sure you get the full two and a half hour one, not the edited one and a half hour version though.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. vsvevg

    08/09/2015 at 19:00

    Thanks Ste J, I have been wanting to become more educated about the origins of rap. As a lover of poetry I think it’s important. I will watch the doc today!

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    • Ste J

      09/09/2015 at 20:29

      It is always fascinating to understand how things came into being and although Gangsta rap gets a bad press the reasons for it are necessary and so fascinating.

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      • vsvevg

        10/09/2015 at 14:16

        I watched the Doc, I enjoyed it, it was my day off. Then I spiraled into a ytube vortex of snoop dog and the horrible childhood of Eminem : o ?! I really cant be trusted with ytube. 🙂

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        • Ste J

          11/09/2015 at 13:23

          It’s stupidly addictive, all those documentaries and then a few comedy sketches, then kids shows from back in the day and before you know it, you’ve missed dinner and teatime is almost upon you. I think it’s a good learning tool though as it enables us to watch things we probably missed about subjects we may not have been interested in before.

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  8. shadowoperator

    09/09/2015 at 20:40

    There’s a book of rap lyrics actually published by Professor Andrew DuBois (last name pronounced not DuBwah but DuBois). It’s huge, and you can get it on Amazon. I know the point of rap is to hear it, but it helps to have something (for clueless non-rap fans like me) to compare the lyrics and see how they stack up against each other.

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    • Ste J

      09/09/2015 at 20:49

      Rap is sometimes a challenge to follow when done at speed and with so much of it out there, an encyclopaedia would be handy for appreciating the sheer breadth and depth of the genre. I try free style rhymes at work which always get ridiculous within a matter of sentences.

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  9. clarepooley33

    09/09/2015 at 23:35

    Interesting review of a film I probably wouldn’t have considered watching at all. My husband’s nephew was (and probably still is) a fan of this style of music. When it first appeared it was so different and so powerful it appealed immediately to all young people – black and white. I was too old at the time and though I see what the appeal must be I don’t feel it myself.

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    • Ste J

      11/09/2015 at 13:45

      I didn’t used to be that much if a fan whilst younger but these days I do appreciate the talent some of the rappers have, to tell a story and play with words as they do. Learning of origins always makes a subject that bit more fascinating as it allows an overview into how it has progressed as a genre and the subtleties that have been added to it.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. macjam47

    10/09/2015 at 02:41

    Very interesting post. However, it is not a film I would watch.

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    • Ste J

      11/09/2015 at 13:48

      I doubt I would have been bothered either had I not known the group’s music, then again I am starting to explore everything just because my curiosity demands it and hopefully will continue to dabble in everything just because its there.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. leapingtracks

    12/09/2015 at 17:12

    ‘out enjoying life’ – steady on, old bean! Each to their own and all that, but I’ve never managed to warm to hip hop/rapping etc as a preferred listen, although I can admire the musicality and verbal skill.

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    • Ste J

      12/09/2015 at 20:52

      Enjoying life and bank holiday aren’t always two words that go together but they did this time and like an eclipse it was well worth stopping, to get involved. I always find that if the words actually mean something it is more preferable to the whinging about women and money…two things I tend not to whinge about, well not in a career making sense anyway, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. RoSy

    23/10/2015 at 20:18

    I guess my mind just filled in the blanks from having lived through this era of music & scandal on the lyrics.
    The movie probably barely hit the surface of how things went down since there is simply too much to get into with the time allowed.
    I remember the music from back in the day – so I kinda’ went back in time with this one.
    BTW – Hubby & I hit the theater on a $5 Tuesday. And – we had our cinema bucket & cup for our popcorn & drink. So- it was a cheap date. LOL

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      23/10/2015 at 20:34

      I did think that a lot of the important bits were pushed out but then some of the band were producing so had an influence in the direction of it, a less biased more integrated film would have been more fascinating and shown more of the impact the band had in terms of the politics of the situation.

      $5 is unbelievably cheap, I’m going to the wrong cinema…in the wrong country, on the wrong continent lol.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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