Straight Outta Compton (Movie Review)

Grrrr!!!!!

If nothing else, this movie taught me the proper way to say “Suge Knight”. Now, I have knowledge to properly say “Suge Knight is a deplorable piece of shit who should’ve been thrown in jail years ago”.

 Straight Outta Compton

Directed by: F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Set it Off, Friday)

Produced by: Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Scott Bernstein, Dr. Dre

Screenplay by: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff

Story by: S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus,Andrea Berloff

Genre: Biographical drama

Starring: Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Paul Giamatti, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown, Jr., R. Marcus Taylor

Music by: Joseph Trapanese

Plot: Straight Outta Compton is the story infamous rap group N.W.A., from its inception to the aftermath of its dissolution, as well as the relationships between its members, Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.) and those around them, as well as how the group impacted American culture.

We don’t talk much about music here on PKtM, especially ever since all the music experts in my employ were tragically lost in a completely non-suspicious mass suicide the day before I gave myself an enormous raise. All none of you who were around in those early days know that I’m not a huge fan of rap music. I like it fine, but my tastes are a little more, how should I put it, classic.

Ninja Sex Party is classic, and don’t you fucking dare tell me otherwise.

That said, I do like N.W.A. a lot, I appreciate the impact they had on Western society, and they did have quite the impact. So, especially with race relations being in the state that they’re currently at in the United States, it’s important that N.W.A. gets the biopic that, uh, America deserves, or whatever the fuck. And, while it doesn’t go quite as far as I would’ve liked in showing the, let’s say, unsavoury way some of the protagonists acted during and shortly after the N.W.A. era. But, I suppose that’s to be expected from a movie that’s produced by two N.W.A. members.

Aside from that, though, Straight Outta Compton does a terrific job of capturing that point in history for both American society and the lives of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy E (Because MC Ren and DJ Yella apparently weren’t worthy of screen time).

Bizarre, when you consider the legendary hit that was One Mo Nigga ta Go.

I literally just learned that that album was made in memory of Eazy E. I feel like a tremendous dick now.

Though the publicity would probably have you thinking otherwise, the movie is only about N.W.A. for, like, half of the runtime, at the most. The majority of Straight Outta Compton is more about the personal relationships and experiences, especially the five three main characters, who are all portrayed by relative newcomers who, I’m happy to report, are fucking killin’ it. Julliard alumni Corey Hawkins is terrific as Dr. Dre (Even if I personally feel like his character is kind of underdeveloped, but I could just be reaching a little out of my range for criticism’s sake), and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. is also amazing as his actual real life father, Ice Cube, the guy who wrote “Fuck tha Police” and proceeded to play a cop in Ride Along and 21 Jump Street, because irony’s a bitch.

Fuck that shit, cause I ain’t the one/ For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun/                                             To be beatin’ on, and thrown in jail/ We can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell….

I’m generally against nepotism in every shape and form…

OH GOD!!! OH GOD NO!!! GET IT OUT OF MY SIGHT!!!!! GET IT OUT OF MY FUCKING SIIIII-

But I suppose there’s an exception to be made for every rule, and this is a pretty great exception.

Jaden Smith should still stick to being both awesome and batshit insane on Twitter, though.

My favourite performance of the three is Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. He disappears into the role even more so than the other two leads, which is saying a ton, believe me. I want him to be nominated for an Oscar early next year. That’s probably too much to ask, considering how marred in the 50’s the mindset of the Academy is. I can still have hope, can’t I?

Oh…. Maybe not then.

And Paul Giamatti is amazing too as the group’s manager, Jerry Heller because, well, he’s Paul Fucking Giamatti and every time he’s given a substantial amount of screen time, he’s bound to be amazing, something Sony really took full advantage of when casting him as the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

“He was in that???”- Anybody who read that last sentence just now.

In addition to the actors, the movie has a terrific atmosphere and tone. You can pretty much reach out and touch it, only to have it bludgeon you to death because the atmosphere of American culture in those days was incredibly intense. You can feel the anger in the air of 80’s Compton and the disillusionment that the lower-class black community of the era was/is rightly feeling. The soundtrack, composed of hip-hop and R&B tracks of the day also help, the fact that they’re kickass jams definitely not hurting. “Kickass jams.”Jesus Christ, my whiteness is showing, isn’t it?

Throughout the first half, Straight Outta Compton is a blaze of righteous fury, and I was seriously considering it one of my favourite movies of the year so far, up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out

…And then the second half hit, and the movie screeches to a halt, becoming your generic, melodramatic biodrama. Don’t get me wrong, as generic, melodramatic biodramas go, it’s still fairly great, it’s just quite a bit of a let-down compared to the amazing first half. It’s essentially Fantastic Four if Fantastic Four started out terrific and ended up great, instead of starting off as the worst thing ever and ending as a worthless petri dish of awfulness that is now legally classified as a form of torture by the United Nation.

Trust me, loyal subjects, I’m going to beat this horse into the fucking ground, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

Overall: The second half is comparatively overwhelming for sure, but it’s not bad at all, and the incredible performances and the intensity of the first half more than make up for it.

Rating: 8.5/10

Fun fact: I first heard about Dr. Dre from the Dr. Pepper commercials. Any meager street cred that I may have possessed is now nonexistent.

Quote of the Day- July 18, 2015

Look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed
They’ve dragged her to the bushes and now she’s being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I’d hate to blow the game.

— Phil Ochs, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”

You know, in case you were feeling good about humanity, for some reason.

Quote of the Day- May 9, 2015

“What do tigers dream of when they take their little tiger snooze? Do they dream of mauling zebras, or Halle Berry in her Catwoman suit? Don’t you worry your pretty striped head, we’re gonna get you back to Tyson and your cozy tiger bed. And then we’re gonna find our best friend Doug, and then we’re gonna give him a best friend hug. Doug, Doug, oh, Doug, Dougie, Dougie, Doug, Doug! But if he’s been murdered by crystal meth tweakers…..  Well then we’re shit out of luck.”

– Stu Price, The Hangover

The Hangover (2009) Poster

This franchise somehow managed to be both the best and worst thing to happen to Todd Phillips’ career.

Top 15 Rise Against Songs: Part 3 of 3

(Looking for parts 1 and 2? Over here and over here.)

I would’ve had this post up sooner, but the internet at my place decided to up and die on me. Because I’m completely useless with technology, it’s taken me until now to post this. Apologies.

Also, I realise that Black Market has been out for almost a week, and I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty damn solid. It’s got some crap songs, for sure (“Sudden Life”, anyone?) but songs like “The Eco-Terrorist In Me”, “People Live Here” and “Zero Visibility” would likely make this list if I actually took the time to do a little hard work and go back to update it. However, it’s unreasonable to assume that somebody who, as a kid, once spent an entire afternoon trying to determine if he could get high off of snorting “Sour Patch Kids” sugar would actually show initiative of any sort. Also, when I say “as a kid”, I actually mean “Last Friday”.

 

5. “Help Is On the Way ” 

Album: Endgame (2011) (Single)

Genres: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

An  intense, pounding melodic  punk song, “Help Is On the Way” not only has one of my favourite opening lines in music history (” I have my mother’s dreams/I have my father’s eyes/You can’t take that from me/Just go ahead and try”), but is also the band’s most commercially successful single, reaching as high as 2 on the Billboard Rock and Alternative Charts, and 89 on the Billboard Hot 100. Can you say “indie cred lost?”

 

“Maybe. Can you say: “gold-plated private jet?””- Rise Against

4. “Audience of One”

Album: Appeal to Reason (2008) (Single)

Genre: Alternative Rock

Written by: Tim McIlrath

I know it’s not exactly cool to like a song that is about as punk as James Cameron is subtle, but I guess I’ll just have to take up with my crust punk friends.

Or, realistically, I’ll just timidly agree with anything they have to say.

“Audience of One is pretty much a straight mainstream rock song, but it’s anthemic and really damn catchy. Elitists may roll their eyes at it, but it’s still the best thing to come out of what was kind of a mediocre album.

 

3. “Give it All” 

Album: The Sufferer and the Witness (2006) (Single)

Genre: Hardcore punk, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

WE GIVE IT AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

NOW THERE’S A REEEEEASSOOONNN WHYYYYY II SIIIIIIIIIIINNNG!!!!!

SO GIVE IT AAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

AND IT’S THESE REASONS THAT BELONG TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

2. “Swing Life Away” 

 Album: Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004)

Genre: Acoustic rock

Written by: Tim McIlrath

An introspective acoustic song (The only one on SSOtCC), “Swing Life Away” is just a really sweet, optimistic (How about that?) tune about reminiscing about the past while keeping an eager eye towards the future.  Fun fact: It’s the only Rise Against song to ever chart in the Billboard Pop Chart, at 95.

 

1.  “Prayer of the Refugee” 

Album: Appeal to Reason (2008) (Single)

Genre: Melodic hardcore

Writer: Tim McIlrath

Instantly recognizable thanks to its opening guitar rhythm and Tim McIlrath’s melancholy singing, “Prayer of the Refugee” is a fiery, fist-pump inducing call to arms for the downtrodden and the oppressed, and a furious denouncement of capitalism,  being the conversation between a refugee and his son, with the father recounting tales of the past prosperity of his people, their current misery, and finally encouraging his son to rebel against the oppressors and change the world for the better.

I may get into why this song means so much to me later, but the short version is this: My dad is a refugee from El Salvador who came to Canada fleeing a tin-pot military dictatorship (The default setting for Latin American countries). Being a highly opinionated political activist, who has always encouraged me to remember my roots and fight for my beliefs and for what’s right, in general. So when Tim is singing about “Singing through the day/Of the lives that we’ve lost/And the lives we’ve reclaimed” it kind of feels like my dad’s recounting tales about his home country and instilling hope in my cynical, jaded, know-it all mind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Sour Patch Kids to inhale.

To be continued…

Top 15 Rise Against Songs: Part 2 of 3

(Looking for part 1? Over here.)

 

10. “Broken English”

Album: Revolutions per Minute (2003)

Genres: Punk rock, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

Revolutions Per Minute is one of Rise Against’s better albums, but the thing is that it doesn’t have quite as much memorable songs as some of the other great RA albums (Specifically, Siren Songs of the Counter Culture and The Sufferer and the Witness). That said, this song is pretty damn amazing, and has a great, melodic sing-along chorus that ranks among the bigger crowd-pleasers in their repertoire. Or it would be, if, y’know, they ever played non-singles at their concerts.

 

9. “Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” 

Album: Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004)

Genre: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

One of the longer, better named songs in Rise Against’s discography, “Rumours”, is the second of four songs from Siren Song, their major label debut, to be included on this list. There aren’t much better ways to close out an amazing album than with this poppy, yet hardcore song.

 

8. “Ready to Fall” 

Album: The Sufferer and the Witness (2006) (Single)

Genres: Post-hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

Reflecting the slightly altered, less radio-friendly style of Rise Against’s best album, “Ready to Fall is a deliberately slow, pounding slow-burner of a song, that still manages to be very emotionally resonant. It’s very rare for me to actually enjoy screamed vocals as much as the rest of the song, but the “Wings won’t take me” verse that Tim screeches before the chorus is probably the best part of the song.

7. “Hero of War”

 Album: Appeal to Reason (2008)

Genre: Acoustic rock

Written by: Tim McIlrath

The closest thing to a “hippy song” that Rise Against have ever released, “Hero of War” is an acoustic ballad decrying all sorts of injustices during the idiotic war on terror, including manipulation of young men by army recruiters, prisoner abuse and war crimes committed by American troops, but its’ main focus is on the emotional toll that war inflicts upon the veterans. It’s an important, emotionally powerful song that ranks among my favourite acoustic songs of all time.

 

6.  “Savior”

Album: Appeal to Reason (2008) (Single)

Genre: Punk rock, alternative rock

Writer: Tim McIlrath

Admittedly, it’s less “punk-y” and was quite overplayed upon its release, but “Savior” is still an emotionally  urgent song that is one of the stronger points on what was, honestly, kind of a weak album. It’s not that I didn’t agree with it’s messages, it’s just that I can only take so much before it sounds like Michael Moore is screaming in my ear.

 

To be continued…

Top 15 Rise Against Songs: Part 1of 3

There is no way Tim McIlrath isn’t on the verge of bursting out sobbing in this photo.

On July 15, Chicago-based punk band Rise Against will be releasing their seventh full-length studio album, entitled The Black Market. The very act of a band that I follow actually releasing an album after a reasonable amount of years gets me excited in more ways than one, so I’m freaking out over here. It doesn’t help that I’m also going to see Rise Against (For the third time in three years) when they come to Edmonton for Sonic Boom at the end of August. So basically, I’m just going to be a big sloppy mess until September.

Although the quaaludes aren’t helping, to be honest.

Anyhow, in honour of this milestone, (Seven is a milestone, right?), I’m counting down the fifteen best Rise Against songs ever been released, with the only exceptions being songs that were released as B-sides (Because they didn’t make the list anyways), and live songs that haven’t been released as a single or on an album, although I must say that their acoustic cover of No Use For a Name’s “For Fiona” is the best thing that’s ever happened to anybody ever.

Well, almost.

Also, keep in mind, this is just my opinion. If you think that my list sucks because some of the songs are major label releases, or that Rise Against sucks because they’re vegan or something, that’s okay. You know what I always say about different people’s opinions: They always sound better when you’re wigged out on quaaludes. Oh, uh, I mean that they’re just that: opinions. Or something.

 

15.” I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore”  

Album: The Black Market (2014) (Single)

Genres: Punk rock, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

The band’s latest single seems to indicate somewhat of a return to familiar territory for the band, as it’s been a while since one of their songs conveyed as much intensity, and even longer since they’ve displayed such an introspective song, in contrast to their normally heavily political lyrics. And hey, I’m not one to complain about them ditching the picket signs for the black eyeliner every now and then. This song is fucking intense!

 

14. “Architects”

Album: Endgame (2011)

Genre: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

I can tell you all from firsthand experience that this is a damn near perfect song to sing along to live, although I will admit that it’s kind of odd that the lyrics in the bridge are exactly identical to the chorus in Against Me’s “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.” It’s more or less impossible to care about potential plagiarism when thrashing about to this song, though.

 

 

13. “Paper Wings” 

Album: Siren Songs of the Counter Culture (2004) (Promotional Single)

Genres: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

One of the few songs on RA’s breakout record that isn’t spewing righteous left-wing vitriol, “Paper Wings” is a heartfelt song about a breakup. Not exactly the deepest subject, but Tim’s heartfelt, intelligent lyrics and the whole band’s tight, energetic instrumentation make it one of the better songs in one of their better albums.

12. “Everchanging”

 Album: The Unraveling (2001)

Genres: Pop-punk, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

Let’s face it: As much as it’s deified by the anti-major label community, The Unraveling, Rise Against’s debut on Fat Wreck Chords, isn’t that great of an album. It’s not a bad album, by any means, but it pales in comparison to some of the later material put out by the band. That said, “Everchanging”, another apolitical song about a relationship in disarray, is another wonderful, well-written song, and is also one of the few songs I can play all the way through on my guitar.

And even then, I need a little outside help.

 

11.  “Blood-Red, White and Blue” 

Album: Revolutions per Minute (2003)

Genre: Hardcore punk

Writer: Tim McIlrath

Fuck that mopey emo bullshit, man! This song is straight up hardcore!!!

Rise Against hadn’t quite completed their evolution into a mostly political punk group, but Revolutions per Minute was definitely a leap towards that direction, and “BRWB” was the ultimate manifestation of a pissed off group of young men who were doing their best (And succeeding) to not only give their audience something to mosh to, but also to make them think when they were done moshing.

Or, y’know, keep up with the macho posturing. That shit works, I guess.

To be continued…