Thursday, August 13, 2015

'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).

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