Friday, August 28, 2015

Rehearsals Start For 'Appropriate' At Mark Taper

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at first day of rehearsal

Previews September 23, Opens October 4, Through November 1, 2015

                Rehearsals are underway for Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ razor-edged new comedy “Appropriate,” opening October 4 and continuing through November 1, 2015, at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum.  Previews begin September 23.

                Directed by Obie Award winner Eric Ting, the cast for “Appropriate” includes, in alphabetical order, Hugo Armstrong (“Bent” and “Waiting for Godot,” Taper), Robert Beitzel (“Our Town,” Barrow Street Theatre; “Women or Nothing,” Atlantic Theater), Melora Hardin (Amazon’s “Transparent”; “Chicago,” Broadway ), Grace Kaufman (“Coney Island Christmas,” Geffen; “The Last Ship,” TNT), Zarah Mahler (“Soul Doctor,” Broadway; “Stupid Fucking Bird,” Boston Court), Will Tranfo (the films “Ennui” and “Bastard”) and Missy Yager (“Diary of Anne Frank,” Broadway; “This is Our Youth,” off-Broadway). (One role remains to be cast.)

                Scenic design for “Appropriate” is by Mimi Lien, costume design is by Laura Bauer, lighting is by Christopher Kuhl, sound design is by Matt Tierney, the fight director is Steve Rankin and casting is by Meg Fister.  The production stage manager is David S. Franklin.

The sins of the forbearers echo throughout “Appropriate.”  As estranged family members convene in Arkansas to settle the patriarch’s estate, they discover in the ruin and clutter of their crumbling plantation home an album filled with disturbing photos. Sparks fly when the siblings debate possible family ties to this unwanted legacy, and their tenuous reunion brings up old rivalries and family secrets that soon toss them all into a tailspin.

Postcards Gourment Soul Food Truck Gets 5 Stars

Greg King

 (Los Angeles, CA) -- Greg King, owner of Postcards Gourmet Soul Food Truck is one of the top food trucks on the streets of Los Angeles.  In 2014, Zagat named Postcards as one of the ‘best new food trucks on the road’. It has been rewarded with Yelp’s 5 Stars rating from customers and he currently on The Great Food Truck Race!

Postcards Central American Soul Food’s signature dish is chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and greens served in either a wrap or bowl.  All of PostcardsCAS’ dishes are inspired by famous African-American historians such as The Greatest inspired by Muhammad Ali, Langston’s Choice after poet Langston Hughes, and Alice’s Final Word, inspired by author Alice Walker who wrote “The Color Purple.”

King launched PostcardsCAS in 2013 after leaving a successful career as a marketer for some of the biggest brands in the world, including NBC, Warner Bros., Fox Entertainment Group, L’Oreal, and Mattel.

King’s food has been showcased on The Food Networks hit series The Great Food Truck Race and Maria Manounos’ Success is the New Black.

Photo credit: WilkiImage


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kathy Griffin's 'Like A Boss' Tour Extended

Performances Are Now Running November 4-7, 2015

Tickets For Added Performances Go On Sale 
Friday, August 28 At 10 AM

After an overwhelming demand, the two-time Emmy and Grammy Award-winning comedian Kathy Griffin has extended the engagement of her “Like A Boss” Tour at the Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum in Downtown Los Angeles.  Originally announced for November 4 and 5, Griffin has added two more 8 p.m. performances – Friday, Nov. 6 and Saturday, Nov. 7.
Griffin says, “Two more nights!  I’m so thrilled to announce my additional two nights at the iconic Mark Taper Forum.  It’s kind of like when you think you’re going to have a one-night stand with a guy but he’s so great, you let him stay. My hope is that the audience at the Taper will be good and sore after four nights.  Sore from laughing, of course.”
Inspired by the wave of recent pop culture news, Kathy Griffin has set off on an 80-city “Like A Boss” Tour.  Griffin says she has “a self-diagnosed, standup comedy disorder” and “must share my thoughts on Caitlyn (Jenner), Barbra Streisand and those adorable Duggars.”  She will take aim at these and many more known personalities in an ever-changing show that is inspired by this year’s political landscape and her personal run-ins with celebrities and other “questionable figures.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

'Hitman Agent 47' In Theaters Nationwide

Rupert Friend is Hitman Agent 47

In Hollywood someone could go through 46 agents before they find one that can get the job done.

Enter Hitman Agent 47!

The body count during the first five minutes of Hitman Agent 47, Aleksander Bach’s debut action film, is staggering but it’s merely a sign of things to come.

A reboot of “Hitman” (2007) adapted from the IO Interactive videogame about a genetically engineered contract killer, this Agent 47 is a sleek and slick offering starring Rupert Friend in the title role.

The nattily dressed Agent (white shirt, red tie and black suit) has a steel glaze, a robotic walk and no emotions. Incredibly accurate with his targets, it’s not quite cut and dry in the beginning of the movie if he’s actually a good guy or a bad guy.

His assignment, if he chooses to accept, (oops, wrong movie) is to go to Berlin to find Katia (Hannah Ware), a girl who can possibly lead him to the scientist who came up with the formula to make an army full of Agent 47s.

Enter John Smith, or is that his real name?  Smith, played by Zachary Quinto is also looking for Katia.  His character starts off one way and then veers off in another direction.

Moving on. Agent 47 and Katia, who is also looking for a man, but doesn’t quite know why (yep, that’s what I said), team up to find the mystery man, who is in Singapore living in plain sight. Smith is also looking for the man.

On the way to finding the man, Agent 47 and Katia encounter what seems like millions of bad guys – and takes them all on – like the bad asses they are!

It turns out Katia has some skills herself. She can see things. She can see a lot of things, which gives her the power to over power some of the bad guys.

The minutiae gets a bit cloudy and confusing.

When Agent 47 and Katia find the man, a new wrinkle is thrown into the mix. His identity makes everything a bit more complicated.

Once he’s found, what ensues is cinematic chaos.  The mayhem and violence is mind-boggling.

While the film has a modern feel and has all the trappings of an action thriller, it fails to set itself apart from the other offerings.

Hitman Agent 47, directed by Aleksander Bach, stars Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto, Hannah Ware, Thomas Kretschmann and Ciaran Hinds.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Hitman Agent 47 gets an L (likeable).

MPAA Rating: R; Running time: 96 min.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Postcards Food Truck In 'Great Food Truck Race'

(Los Angeles, CA) – Out of hundreds of potential contestants, Producers of The Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, selects Postcards Central American Soul Food as one of the seven competitors for Season 6. The owner Greg King and chef of PostcardsCAS, from Southern California specialize in soul food cuisine. 

The Great Food Truck Race will begin its sixth season in Santa Monica, CA as the food truck operators head out for a 2,500-mile journey along America’s historic Route 66. They’ll be making stops in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois before finishing with an action-packed finale in Chicago. Host Tyler Florence will be navigating a team of professional food truck operators through multiple challenges geared to test their resolve and find “the best gourmet truck in the country”. The winning food truck will walk away with a cash prize of $50,000.

Lovers of soul food can look forward to meeting the team and experiencing the day-to-day adventure they face on the road as Greg, Grae and Monique travel across the country competing for the win.

Postcards Central American Soul Food’s signature dish is chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and greens served in either a wrap or bowl.  All of PostcardsCAS’ dishes are inspired by famous African-American historians such as The Greatest inspired by Muhammad Ali, Langston’s Choice after poet Langston Hughes, and Alice’s Final Word, inspired by author Alice Walker who wrote “The Color Purple.”

“Soul food is loved by people of all walks of life; however, often it’s only found in urban communities,” commented King. “I want to make this cuisine healthy and accessible to everyone, and it seems to be working…”

A foodie from childhood, King began his career in the food industry working alongside his dad in the family soul food business at the young age of 12. King’s dad, a classically trained chef, taught his four sons the artistry of cooking culinary dishes with a soulful twist. King easily picked up techniques for creating great soul food; however, in establishing his business he wanted to present it as healthier alternative to the decadent soul food created by his parents.

King launched PostcardsCAS in 2013 after leaving a successful career as a marketer for some of the biggest brands in the world, including NBC, Warner Bros., Fox Entertainment Group, L’Oreal, and Mattel.

King has utilized his professional experience as the sounding board to building a successful restaurant business. PostcardsCAS delivers tasty and healthy soul food options easily eaten on the go, because they are served in a wrap or bowl. Similar to Chipotle where Mexican cuisine is served in a wrap or bowl; King his customized a tantalizing menu offering notable soul food staples available for consumers who love southern soul food cuisine; yet, he’s added some Belizean staples (such as Rice and Peas, Oxtails and Plantain) to compliment his offerings.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Zakiya Hooker Serenades 'Live' And 'In The Mood'

Zakiya Hooker
Atlanta - Blues legend John Lee Hooker is best remembered for his iconic hits, "Boom, Boom" and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer." But perhaps his greatest legacy is found in the seductively supple vocal stylings of his daughter, the jazz-inflected, bluesy recording artist, Zakiya Hooker. Zakiya last showcased her brand of the remarkable Hooker inheritance with her 2009 CD release "Keeping It Real," an unbridled presentation of sassy melodious seduction. Her return to rhythm's landscape is now powerfully noted with her fifth and sixth releases, the consummate "In The Moodand the outstanding performance production "Zakiya Hooker Live at the International BluesFest Eutin, Germany.
"In the Mood" is one of Zakiya's most diverse efforts to date.   With the music actually recorded in Argentina and Zakiya's vocals laid down in her current home state of Georgia, the project boasts eleven tracks drenched deep in the muddied Delta waters.  A defining contribution establishing her own legacy as a woman who intimately dances the blues, Zakiya, like her father, displays no notion of loudly belting the genre. Poised, regal and confident, instead she just pours the blues all over you. Like warm massage oil penetrating the skin, her songs simply seep inside the pores, tingling to the core.  
When she opens with "Receipt to Sang the Blues," her 'proof of purchase' is a matter of fact, not notion, as her smooth vocals lusciously ride a rollicking blues train of testimony. Zakiya then simmers in a delicious serving of jazz flavored serenade on "Drowning," a lover's ode that gushes with tender surrender. "Look Me Up" offers up some seventies styled R&B while the title release "In the Mood," along with "One Step," reminiscence signature Hooker swag with amplified electric guitar over a steady, heavy blues trodden beat. The finger poppin' "Protect Me" swings hard marrying jazz and blues with regrets and remorse. Then Zakiya seals all deals with the closing track, her beautiful, serene lullaby "Sweet Baby J," a tribute to her son that she lost in 1991.

The video for the title track, "In the Mood" languidly lays out the blues for all to see. Romeo Wong Henderson, a native of Peru who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, directed the video via his production company, RW Estudio, traveling to the states to shoot a portion of the scenes in Zakiya's home and neighborhood. Henderson then traveled back to Buenos Aires to finish and shoot the remaining scenes there. The resulting reel mixes southern comfort with South American heat for a visually stimulating treat.

Video for Zakiya Hooker's  
Video for Zakiya Hooker's "In the Mood"
"Zakiya Hooker Live at the International BluesFest Eutin, Germany," transports the listener overseas and right beside Zakiya onstage as she charms a live audience with her jazzy blue interpretations. Performing blues classics as well as material from her vast catalog and John Lee Hooker originals, Zakiya proves she is live and 'not Memorex' with a voice that is smooth as silk and steadies the course under any conditions.  
Zakiya made her debut performance in 1991 with her dad, John Lee Hooker, in Oakland, CA. She has since gone on to perform and record internationally. She has performed at the world famous Radio City Music Hall in New York City as part of the Blues Series by Martin Scorsese, graced the stage of the famous Fillmore Auditorium, The San Francisco Blues Festival and The Monterey Jazz & Blues Festival and covered several magazines including Billboard Magazine. Zakiya's voice has highlighted advertisements for Lexus and AIWA and award winning movie soundtracks.  The Bay Area Blues Society, South Bay Blues Society, KCSM radio station in San Mateo, CA and the city of Oakland have honored Zakiya with numerous awards and she has received the key to the city of Oakland, CA, her former home. 

A native of Detroit and longtime resident of Oakland, CA, Zakiya now lives in Atlanta with her husband, producer and recording artist, Ollan Christopher aka Chris James. Ollan and Zakiya work as a wonderful musical team with him overseeing and producing all her musical ventures. Ollan's history includes forming the 1970's soul group, Natural Four. His group was with Curtom Records for seven years and appeared on American Bandstand, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, Wolfman Jack's Midnight Special, Soul Train and performed at the world famous Apollo Theater. In 2003 Ollan had the honor of producing "Face To Face," the final recording of John Lee Hooker.  
Zakiya Hooker
and her husband/ producer Ollan Christopher

"The blues is one of our last national treasures. I am happy to do my part and keep it alive and nourished. I know that's the way my daddy would have wanted it. His music contributions continue to impact pop culture to this day, and I know he is in the studio with me every time as I continue to keep his legend alive," offer Zakiya. 
Get "In the Mood" with Zakiya at

Connect with Zakiya on Facebook at: 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Carter's 'Game On' Wins Global Music Award

A pivotal album inspired by a pivotal, life-changing experience, “Game On” is the apropos title of Kenyon Carter’s ( album that was released Friday (August 14) by CurvePoint Media, a ten-song set of originals that the saxophonist wrote and produced in this “Go for it!” moment in his career. The title track to his third release, which earned a silver medal last week for outstanding achievement from the Global Music Awards, knocks it out of the park with an MVP assist from guitar great Chuck Loeb (Fourplay), a contemporary jazz heavyweight who trades ferocious licks with Carter’s spirited tenor horn. There’s a sense of urgency to the cut that has been among the most added singles on the Billboard chart, which can be directly attributed to an incident in Carter’s not too distant past that influences everything the Atlanta-based musician does. 

Carter ticketed “Game On,” which hit No. 35 on the iTunes Jazz Albums chart Friday, as the effort to elevate him into the major leagues after a couple of well-received outings that introduced his sound and songbook to a national radio audience. The time to breakthrough in a big way is now – something the artist learned from having his right arm crushed in a car crash that almost kept him out of the game for good. Severe radial nerve damage left doctors wondering if Carter would ever regain full use of the appendage. Persisting patiently through eight months of daily rehab and endless hours dedicated to re-learning how to play the sax with the aid of a specially-designed therapy glove, Carter’s form and function gradually returned, but inside, he would never be the same again. The experience was a powerful wakeup call that the time to chase his dream all out was now and he has not looked back since. Playing with a technical proficiency that exhibits admirable control and restraint when appropriate, his exuberance and drive inform his improvisational soloing that is equal parts impassioned bellows and blasts and graceful finesse that is delicately deployed.       

Hustling out and immediately breaking into a sweat, Carter gives the fervent title cut a boost of guitar muscle from Loeb. The ensuing tenor sax-electric guitar shoot-around erupts into an all-out court battle. There’s a full lineup of potential singles and fan favorites on “Game On.” Carter’s forte as a songwriter is cranking out big hooks that he animates with a variety of saxes allowing him to explore the full “vocal” range of his horn over rhythmic grooves that swirl measures of straight-ahead jazz, R&B and adult pop into substantive soul-jazz collages. 

A crowd pleaser with verve, Carter is excited to get his “Game On” this Saturday night (August 15) just outside of his Atlanta home base with a show at Marietta Jazz & Jokes followed a week later by a second album release celebration at The Velvet Note in Alpharetta, Georgia on August 22. 

For more information, please visit

Friday, August 14, 2015

Boxing Champion Laila Ali To Host 22nd Little Miss African American Scholarship Pageant

Laila Ali

(Los Angeles, CA) – The 22nd Little Miss African American Scholarship Pageant will be hosted by World Boxing Champion/TV Host Laila Aliat H.O.M.E., 430 N. Camden Dr. Beverly Hills, CA on Sunday, August 16th, 2015 At 4:30pm.

Celebrity judges include actor James Pickens Jr(ABC's Grey's Anatomy), Talk Show host Loni Love (The Real), reality star/singer Shanice WilsonElla Joyce (Roc, Belles), Talk Show Host Ron Brewington, Children Advocate May May Ali, Director/Actress Saundra McClain, who join Producer/Choreographer, Lisa Ruffin and other successful invited guests from various professions on hand to support and inspire these lovely young girls.

Little Miss African American (LMAA) is a first and foremost an educational program cleverly disguised in a pageant format whose mission is “dedicated to the intellectual success of young African-American girls”. 

For the past 22 years, dozens of girls between the ages of 6-12 years old have participated in this program, hundreds of scholarships have been awarded, and lasting memories have been created for these young Academic and intellectual princesses. While some of them come from strong supportive families, the majority of them come from under-served, single-family homes.  The pageant provides an early introduction to the arts and training in public speaking, while promoting individual creativity and stimulating a heightened cultural understanding.

Lisa Ruffin

“Within each girl is the promise of unlimited possibilities, and the pageant is a vehicle for bringing that potential to the forefront.” – Lisa Ruffin

This year’s event is especially important because quite frankly it wasn’t going to happen. However, as more eager contestants joined including some great girls from divergent economic backgrounds, they discovered some who had never experienced being a “Princess” or have even owned a dress before, and who were most in need the LMAA’s core guideline of “Confidence, Awareness and Pride”. They felt it was their duty to the girls to remain committed and continue this year, figuratively and literally finding a new “Home”. Through personal funds combined with the efforts and the help of incredible friends and Angels, they would not let these girls down and now hope to help create some incredible lasting memories for these young ladies.  

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @LMAApageant.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Common, Ne-Yo, Kelley Join 'The Wiz Live'

NBC’s Highly Anticipated Dec. 3 Telecast 

to Be Among Biggest TV Events of the Season

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Aug. 13, 2015 — Adding to an already A-list cast, Oscar winner Common, singer-songwriter-actor Ne-Yo and “Hairspray” co-star Elijah Kelley have joined NBC’s highly anticipated holiday production of “The Wiz Live!,” set for Thursday, Dec. 3.

Kelley will play the Scarecrow, the first of the three friends to meet Dorothy and who has always dreamed of having brains, but never realizing that he’s the smartest of them all.

Ne-Yo will play the Tin Man, who was once a flesh-and-blood woodsman but a spell put on him by the Wicked Witch causes him to lose his limbs and heart. He learns that he’s never lost the ability to feel.

Common will play the Bouncer, the gatekeeper of the entrance to Emerald City who is out to get what he can from Dorothy and her three friends.

Common and John Legend won Academy Awards earlier this year for Best Original Song for their composition of the single “Glory” from the 2014 film “Selma.” He also co-starred in the movie — about the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. — as 1960s civil rights movement leader James Bevel.

As an actor, Common is also known for his role as recently freed slave Elam Ferguson on the AMC series “Hell on Wheels.” Other roles include work on the films “American Gangster,” “Terminator Salvation,” “New Year’s Eve” and voice-over support in “Happy Feet 2.”

An accomplished musical artist, Common is a two-time Grammy Award winner for the singles “Love of My Life” (with Erykah Badu) and “Southside” (featuring Kayne West), respectively. Common has released 10 albums, his most recent being “Nobody’s Smiling,” which debuted at #6 on the Billboard 200 Chart upon its release last year. It’s his highest-charting album since his 2007 disc “Finding Forrester,” which debuted at #1.

Starting at a high bar and maintaining his R&B credentials over the years, Ne-Yo’s first two albums, “In My Own Words” and “Because of You” each debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart. He has written songs for such acclaimed and varied artists as Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Carrie Underwood, Anastacia and Ciara.

On the acting front, Ne-Yo has appeared on the TV series “CSI: NY” and “90210” as well as the films “Stomp the Yard” and “Red Tails.”

“The Wiz Live!” reunites Kelley with Queen Latifah, as both co-starred in the 2007 film “Hairspray,” where he played her son, Seaweed J. Stubbs. In addition, Kelley will once again collaborate with “The Wiz Live!” and “Hairspray” producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

Kelley’s other film roles include “Red Tails” and “The Butler.” His TV work includes “The Shield,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Numb3rs” and “Dirty Sexy Money.”

Other recent cast additions for “The Wiz Live!”:
Queen Latifah stars as the Wiz, the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm. 

Mary J. Blige will play Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, who holds sway over the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys that do her bidding. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.

David Alan Grier will play the Cowardly Lion, who asks Dorothy if he can join her in her journey down the Yellow Brick Road to ask the Wiz for some courage, which he is severely lacking.

Uzo Aduba will play Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, who finally reveals the secret of the silver slippers to Dorothy and points her way home.

Amber Riley will play Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North who isn’t the best at magic but she does try. She is a sister of Glinda, Evillene and Evvamene, the other three witches of Oz. She points Dorothy to the Yellow Brick Road and her journey to Emerald City.

Shanice Williams, a 19-year-old New Jersey native who has been raised and trained in musical theater, is the new Dorothy.

Stephanie Mills will portray Auntie Em in “The Wiz Live!” Mills is best known to many for playing Dorothy in the original Broadway production of “The Wiz.”

“The Wiz Live!” is adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The production opened on Broadway in 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including Best Musical.

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“The Sound of Music Live!,” “Peter Pan Live!,” Oscar-winning “Chicago”) will executive produce. Kenny Leon (Tony winner, “A Raisin in the Sun”) and Matthew Diamond are directors, with Harvey Fierstein (three-time Tony winner, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles”) providing new written material. 

Esteemed choreographer Fatima Robinson (“Dreamgirls,” “Ali”) is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. (“Dreamgirls, “Pitch Perfect 2”) and Stephen Oremus (“The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots”) as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.

“The Wiz Live!” is produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.

'Straight Outta Compton' Is A Winning Biopic!

By Darlene Donloe

Although the members of N.W.A. were leading very public lives, apparently there are still a number of things their fans didn’t know.

Some of those secrets or behind closed doors dealings and shenanigans, as well as how the group formed, are revealed in the drama, Straight Outta Compton, set for release nationwide Aug. 14.

Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren, the members of N.W.A. changed the face of music with their hard-hitting, straight ahead rhymes that spoke about the realities of living in their inner-city neighborhoods. Their musical fearlessness, fresh approach, creativity, rawness, defiance and talent made them legends.

This is their story.  Shit just got real!

Straight Outta Compton (Universal) tells the story of the meteoric rise of N.W.A in the ‘80s and how the notorious group single-handedly spoke to a generation while making the establishment stand up and take notice. The film goes beyond the surface. It speaks to the group’s friendship and brotherhood, the makeups and the breakups.

Their rise to the top wasn’t a pretty picture by any means. In the beginning there were some illegal dealings in the mix. Namely, Eazy-E who had some shady, albeit illegal, dealings. Coming from humble beginnings, the five cohorts had a vision and didn’t let anyone stop them. They forged ahead even when it looked like everything and everyone was against them.  All they had to do was believe in themselves and take the first step. At first, according to Ice Cube during a press conference for the film, they group simply wanted to make music for the neighborhood they lived in. But that quickly changed when their popularity began to ascend.

(l-r) Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, O'Shea Jackson Jr., F. Gary Gray, Ice Cube and DJ Yella

Their 1988 first studio album, Straight Outta Compton, kicked everything into high gear. There was a new sheriff in town and the name was N.W.A.

Director F. Gary Gray has crafted a smart, sharp, personal music biopic, tapping into the mindset of the group and how they navigated some minefields. Gray captures the gritty rawness of the streets and the reality of the danger that awaited black men, ironically, which was even more dangerous when they encountered the police.

The cast is exceptional. O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube), Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella) and Aldis Hodge (MC Ren) are N.W.A. reincarnated. Of course, Jackson, the actual son of Ice Cube who is the spitting image of his father, had a leg up on the others.  The chemistry between the five is palpable.

The sixth star of the movie is the music. Whether you’re a fan or not there is no mistaking the impact the music had on the industry. You can’t help bumping to the music every time it kicks in.

Survival and success were at the top of the group’s list.

The second half of the film shows how the group, right at the pinnacle, begins to have disagreements with the direction the group was going in, as well as about the money.  It would become their Waterloo.

Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren

The friction between Ice Cube and Dr. Dre is one of the highlights of the film. Cube goes off to try his hand at producing. He writes films and even released a fantastic solo project. Dre, himself a prolific producer, begins to make some noise with the likes of Tupac and Snoop Dogg. But what comes next is unfortunate as the two begin to feud trading ugly words on their respective albums.

While the film is hard-hitting and exposes the harshness and hard partying of the group, it also becomes an emotional three-hanky deal when Eazy-E begins to get sick due to AIDS-related complications. He died in 1995 at the age of 31.

The film’s ending offers up a sequel, Straight Outta Compton 2. After all, after the group disbanded each went on to claim individual glory.

This is one of the best films of the summer. The film is Eazy-E top heavy.  Of course when doing a biopic and with so many individuals, there is no way to tell everyone’s full story. There are some glaring eventful omissions, but with Gray’s strong offering, it’s forgivable.

Straight Outta Compton is a winner!

Straight Outta Compton is directed by F. Gary Gray and stars O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., R. Marcos Taylor, Cara Patterson, Alexandra Shipp, Paul Giamatti, Elena Goode, Keith Powers, Joshua Brockington, Sheldon A. Smith, Lakeith Lee Stanfield, Cleavon McClendon III and Aeriel Miranda.

Straight Outta Compton: MPAA Rating: R, Running time: 146 min.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Straight Outta Compton gets an E (excellent).