Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Friday After Next

Year of Release: 2002

Production Companies: New Line Cinema/Cubevision

It has been said by many people that when a third film comes in a franchise, more often than not, it’s considered the weakest link. A lot of the time, people are right about it, but then you have ones that are better or as good. In the end, it’s really subjective and it boils down to what the viewer thinks.

Friday After Next is the third film of the Friday franchise. Now I know what you might be thinking. Why am I covering the third film when I haven’t done reviews on the first two yet? Well, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout because I am telling you why. I am sure that last sentence was a good indicator why I am doing this first. If not, the explanation is that it’s December and it’s Christmas-time, and this film in particular takes place around that time and it had a Christmas-theme.

I promise that I will cover Friday and Next Friday, as well as the soundtracks eventually. I might even cover the short-lived animated series one day (Yes, it existed and I have seen a few episodes). But in the meantime, I am going to talk about this film.

The film’s takes place on Christmas Eve, which falls on a Friday (Because for some reason, this film series NEEDS to have it set on that day; more on this later), and it starts with Craig, Ice Cube’s character who appeared in all three films, waking up in the middle of the night and finding a burglar dressed like Santa Claus. Santa was seen robbing Craig and Day-Day’s (Mike Epps) Christmas presents and the one thing that was even more important: rent money. So that’s basically the main part of the plot, though like the previous two films, there were other subplots and such that went on. After all, this film DOES take place in the span of a day.

So Craig and Day-Day get jobs as security guards at a strip mall to try to get money to pay the rent to the guys’ repulsive landlord, Ms. Pearly. Oh, and she has a son named Damon, played by Terry Crews, who just got out of prison and has developed an interest in men over time. Did I mention that Craig also gains an attraction to Donna, the girlfriend of Money Mike, played by Katt Williams? And that Craig and Day-Day are throwing a wild Christmas party in the evening? Like I said, so much goes on in a one-day period.

What I could say about this film is that it was the weakest of the three, but really, this film got better after multiple viewings. I actually remember seeing this in theaters when it came out. I remember having minor chuckles here and there, but there were some other things that left a lot to be desired. However, after subsequent viewings, it kind of grew on me. Another thing of note is that it had the same tone as the second film, which was different from the first. Keep this in mind, the first film was funny film, but it felt a little more serious and straight in tone in comparison to the second and third films, as they felt a little more wacky and over-the-top with some slapstick in the mix. It wouldn’t surprise me if the film’s opening credits done in an animated style went with it, but at least it was kind of interesting. I also found it funny that Mike Epps played another character in this film as a shotgun-wielding old man.

I liked that they made some links to the previous films, as the series’s other mainstay, Willie (John Witherspoon) made his return once again, along with Elroy from the second film. I noticed that Anna Marie Horsford reprised her role as Craig’s mom, but the gripe that I had was that she didn’t really have a lot to do in this film. The one part that I can think of was when she confronted Mrs. Pearly about coming onto Willie towards the end, but overall, she didn’t have a lot of lines in the film. I think I can count on one hand about the lines of dialogue she had. Now that I think about it, I really wonder if the producers even approached Regina King for her to return as Dana at any point. She wasn’t in the film, obviously, but it felt like she was the forgotten character of the Jones family (Okay, maybe not as she was featured in the animated series, but that’s a topic for another day). I read on IMDB that Chris Tucker was asked to reprise his role as Smokey, but he declined. Another thing of note was that Roach was supposed to return as an earlier draft of the script had him appear, but it was scrapped because the actor who played him died.

As far as links to the previous films go, I noticed that Tom “Tiny” Lister didn’t return as Debo, but I suppose that Ice Cube wanted to change things up a bit and not have that character return as an antagonist.

Fun fact: I didn’t even know until today that there was an alternate ending to the film, and this film has been out for 16 years. The alternate ending showed Santa Claus (and I mean the villain of the film, as in the burglar) in a sympathetic light. It turned out that he was homeless and had only stolen some presents to give his children a good Christmas. Sure, there was some humor thrown in there, but it changed the tone up a tad as it showed the true meaning of Christmas at the end. While I like the original ending in that it showed that the villain was defeated, I thought that the original ending was well written and I actually like it more, but in another perspective, it probably would given the viewers a tonal shift.

Just a minor nitpick. It was said that movie took place on Christmas Eve that fell on a Friday. I am sure I am among a small percentage who would really pay attention to say something like this, but if Christmas Eve in this movie was on a Friday, it sure wasn’t set in 2001 or 2002. Because if Christmas Day fell on a Saturday, it would probably be in 1999 or 2004 because of this 5 or 6 year (Depending on a leap year falling in between) pattern that has certain dates go back to a certain day. It was just an observation. But then again, it was only said that it was Friday at the beginning of the film. It was not mentioned after that.

Other than that, this film was enjoyable to pass an hour and a half, especially during the Christmas season. It had some funny gags, especially with the bits involving Damon and Money Mike. What’s weird is that prior to seeing this movie in theaters, I had only known of Terry Crews through this show called Battle Dome, which was similar to American Gladiators with a few elements of professional wrestling thrown in. I didn’t even know that he was actually a funny guy at the time until I saw this movie. It’s the weakest of the series, but it had some fun moments and it’s far from the worst movie.

NEXT UP: Friday After Next soundtrack

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Movie Review – Mid90s

Year of Release: 2018

Production Companies: A24/Waypoint Entertainment/Scott Rudin Productions

For those who grew up in the 1990’s, it’s weird to look at period pieces or movies and shows from that era and see how things have changed since then, no matter how many people say that things are the same now as they were then. Sure, you can compare how much of a change between the 1980’s and 1990’s, and so forth, but when watching a movie like this, it really shows how things were different, especially in this day and age with people’s faces glued to their cellphones and the internet being huge. What’s funny to me is that I have read an article in the past about how no one could make a period piece about the 1990’s that is similar to “Dazed and Confused” and “American Graffiti,” but this may have proved that guy wrong (I can’t find the article, but if I do, I will update and link it).

The movie tells the story of Stevie, who is played by a young actor named Sunny Sujic. Stevie goes through life living through the physical abuse of his older brother Ian, played by Lucas Hedges, as well as living with their mother. Stevie looks up to his brother as he has a collection of rap CD’s from that era, ranging from Wu-Tang to Mobb Deep to Cypress Hill. At some point, Stevie linked up with a group of skaters at a skate shop and then started hanging out with them, trying to find his place.

Did I mention that this film was also the directorial debut of Jonah Hill? Well, he did not just direct this film, he also wrote it. It was clear that this movie was inspired by some other films, namely 1995’s “Kids,” as well as 1993’s “The Sandlot.” A lot of story elements come from the former, like how Stevie hung out with a group of skaters and getting into trouble, as well as doing things like smoking weed and drinking 40’s. How it compares to “The Sandlot” is that it focused mainly on the perspective of Stevie, as he was this film’s version of Smalls. However, unlike “Kids,” this movie is nowhere near as sinister, even though there was some sexism here and there, but if anything, it showed how kids were during that time, add to the fact that it really showed that certain elements would not fly in today’s world. Sure, some characters were not likable in this movie, but then you also had some cool guys and also while you may not like a certain character, you feel for him and also see that he has a softer side than previously let on.

One of the things that stood out about this movie was that it was shot on 16mm, so it was mainly in fullscreen with a 4:3 ratio. Part of me felt that this was intentional as widescreen was not really that much of a thing during that era, so maybe it was done to capture the feel from that time period.

Another that amazed me was that it was a short movie with a lot of story to be told and did not need to be stretched out for everything to understand the main events of it. This movie ran at 84 minutes, but it did not need to be longer to be better. Plus, many of the story elements had some resolution by the film’s end. What was also great was the soundtrack for the movie, as a lot of songs that were played were from a lot of great rap acts such as Cypress Hill, The Pharcyde, Wu-Tang Clan, Jeru The Damaja, Gravediggaz, etc.

On a personal note, I found myself relating a lot to Stevie as I had gone through some of the stuff that he had gone through. The main thing that reminded him of me was when he would go through his brother’s CD collection, as when I was a kid (preteen and also teenager), I used to go through my youngest uncle’s CD collection as he had a lot of what came out around that time. I have been a hip-hop fan for as long as I can remember, and I saw myself in Stevie, though I never suffered any sort of abuse. Also, another thing that made me relate to him was that I had trouble fitting in at times. I mean, yes, I had friends, but if you saw me during lunch breaks, I either kept to myself or would just hang out in a classroom with a friend of mine.

Jonah Hill really impressed me with his direction for this film. Sure, a lot of people may dismiss him for having done a lot of those crude comedies like “This is The End,” “Superbad,” ” The Sitter,” “Get Him to the Greek,” etc. but he has shown that he has talent, and that includes writing and directing. According to IMDB, he had to talk with some well-known film directors such as Martin Scorsese and Ethan Coen on the filmmaking process. Directing a movie seemed quite a step for him, but after seeing this movie, I wonder what he could do next. It really felt like a passion project for him, as it seemed like he put a lot of effort into making this movie work. Overall, this film was definitely worthy of an hour and a half of my time.

5/5

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Movie Review – Blindspotting

Year of Release: 2018

Production Companies: Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate Films/Codeblack Films/Snoot Entertainment

It can be said that there are times that a certain film that you watch that can make you feel uncomfortable, but it a positive way rather than a negative way. There are plenty of films that can and will do that to the view, and Blindspotting is definitely no exception.

This film not only stars Daveed Diggs, who starred in 2015’s Broadway Musical, Hamilton, and Rafael Casal, but this film was a passion project for these two as they had also written the film. The duo were the film’s leads, though most of the focus was on Diggs’s character, Collin, who was on his final few days of a year-long probation for a crime he committed. Casal played Miles, Collin’s hot-headed best friend who embraces the “thug life” and showed quite a disdain for the gentrification of Oakland, Calif., where this film was set and shot.

The story plays out with Collin trying to keep himself out of trouble for those last few days as he lives in a probationary home and has a curfew. However, one night while he was at an intersection, he saw a young black man running from cops and also witnessed the young man’s murder. For those last few days, he has to deal with what he witnessed, and try his hardest to keep himself out of trouble. On the positive side of things, he has his ex-girlfriend Val, played by Janina Gavankar, showing him that sometimes loyalty to toxic friends can lead to trouble. While Miles feels that he always has something to prove, with him being a white guy in a not-so-good area.

Prior to seeing this film, I had read that it was one of this year’s must-see films at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie had a really low budget, as it was obvious that it was actually shot around some rough areas in Oakland, but what really captured me when watching it was the direction and the fact that it knew when to shift its tone during the right time. This film mixed humor and drama that some of the humor came from some quirkiness, but even some of the quirkiness blended in with some of the film’s more serious moments. I also liked the director’s style when transitioning into other scenes by taking a closeup of something happening before making a cut into another sequence.

Also, one thing that I had noticed is that the film’s two leads are also rappers themselves. There were some moments in the film when they would start rapping a capella and the subject matter in the rhymes really described some of the hardships of living in a rough neighborhood. I won’t spoil anything, but there was one powerful moment when Diggs’s character started rapping about some hard-hitting subject matter. The delivery and the flow of Diggs made me want to see if he had recorded some music as well. It turns out that he has done an album before called Small Things To a Giant, which I am curious about checking out sometime. Maybe I will download it soon. I also found out that Diggs and Casal had done an EP based around the Collin character, and may release two more in the near future. Now I will need to check these out. The duo had done a video for one of their songs, and I usually don’t say this, but this is FIRE!

I don’t own this video, by the way.

Overall, this film really deserved all the praise that it got. Maybe it’s because I am a sucker for indie films, but I really thought that this movie was that good. As noted before, this made me a bit uncomfortable at times, but there were reasons why when watching it. However, it was good that it didn’t push boundaries when one could have thought it would go somewhere when watching a particular scene. I won’t say what it is, but if you watch it, you’ll know what I mean. I highly recommend it.

5/5

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Rap Movie Review – Superfly

Year of Release: 2018

Production Company: Columbia Pictures/Silver Pictures

Remakes are not a new concept in cinema, despite what some people may believe, not to mention that when a remake is being made, most movie fans go up in flames because of it. Of course, with them being all the rage in this day and age, it should not be much of a shock that a 1972 Blaxploitation film called Superfly was going to be remade, even though I personally did not see something like this coming.

This new film followed a similar plot to the original in that Youngblood Priest, played by Trevor Martin, is a well-known drug dealer who wants to do one last deal before leaving the game. Of course, certain things prevent that, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie. He has several conflicts along the way, such as a rival dealer and his gang, as well as the right-hand man who had it in for Priest from the start. Other conflicts involve a Mexican drug dealer, Priest’s mentor, and of course, crooked cops. It is basically what you would see in a movie about drug dealing and gangs, so it’s really nothing that you have not seen before.

So what did this new take on the 1972 film have to offer? One thing that is inevitable is that people are likely going to compare and contrast, especially if the movie is 46 years old. There is no escaping it, but really, this film has its own identity, despite having a similar plot and the main character shares his name with the protagonist of the original. The movie itself, however, is set in the modern world. This movie was directed by Canadian-born Director X, whose real name is Julien Christian Lutz, who is also a music video director. A lot of this movie was shot like a modern rap video with guy’s sporting bling and women wearing as little as possible. Not to mention that some action sequences had some slow-motion effects, whether it was from a hand-to-hand fight scene or a high-speed chase sequence. Another thing that this film differed from the original is that it had more of hip-hop/gangsta-style flavor to it, but that didn’t mean that there were no callbacks to the original, as some sequences had Curtis Mayfield’s songs like “Pusher Man” and of course, “Superfly” from the original film. But this time around, because Future had produced this film, he also had a hand in the production of the soundtrack and it showed as a lot of his songs were played.

Trevor Martin did a decent job playing the role of Priest. He mostly played him as a calm-type who kept his head in all situations, even in situations that were more for one to handle. Jason Mitchell, whom had portrayed Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton, as well as appeared in 2016’s Keanu and Kong: Skull Island, stole a lot of scenes that he was in as Eddie, Priest’s right-hand man. He had brought a little comic relief into the film, even though it was predominately serious. Another standout performance was from Jennifer Morrison, who played crooked Detective Mason. She had quite an odious aura about her, enough that you wanted to see something happen to her in the end. I will say the same thing about Brian Durkin, who played an even bigger jerk of a crooked cop, Detective Franklin. Also, I was surprised to see appearances from Rick Ross and Big Boi, who played the mayor of Atlanta, where this film was set.

There were some sequences that stood out for different reasons beyond getting a good thrill from the action, or getting a laugh from a funny moment. For example, one sequence had Priest visiting his mentor Scatter, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, who was running a martial arts school. The two engaged in a friendly sparring session, while talking about taking chances and trying to get out of the drug game. Of course, not without using some martial arts techniques in the process, which ended with Scatter putting Priest in an armbar. Another sequence that stood out was the gratuitous sex sequence, when Priest was taking a shower and his two girlfriends get in there with him and you get the idea. So there was a threesome sequence, for no other reason than just some fanservice. Not to mention a tackle on racial issues at the end of the car chase scene. It almost seemed that some scenes were added in as a subtle homage to the old Blaxploitation films from the 1970’s. I will admit, I have not seen enough of them, but I have seen some, including the 1972 Superfly.

Another thing that I must add is that it has been years since I have watched original film. I am also aware that there were sequels, one being Superfly TNT from 1973, and The Return of Superfly from 1990, which had a different actor playing the protagonist that time around than Ron O’Neal when he was in the original two films. Maybe just for kicks one day, I might do reviews on them.

The thing about this film is that it is a decent way to pass the time, if you’re going in expecting a bunch of cliches from crime films involving gangsters and drug dealers. It is not that good of a movie, but I would give it some credit where credit is due as the performances were good, and the story was actually decent.

3.5/5

P.S. I may do a review on the soundtrack. I just need to get my hands on it first.

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Rap Movie Review – The Man With The Iron Fists 2

Year of Release: 2015

Film Studio: Universal Pictures/Arcade Pictures/Strike Entertainment

In the past, when I saw that there was a sequel of The Man With The Iron Fists that was made, I was baffled and not baffled at the same time. It wasn’t until recently that I found out how the first film did in its theatrical run. However, for it to have green-lit a sequel, I could only guess that a lot of units of the DVD and/or Blu Ray sold when it came out on home video. That, and maybe RZA also wrote a screenplay for the film which then got Universal to make it happen.

Like the first film, RZA had more than just a couple of credits as he yet again starred in it, as well as co-wrote the screenplay, and composed the film’s score. He also had an executive producer credit (Along with Eli Roth, the predecessor’s co-writer) and a music supervisor credit for the film, which for some reason was listed as his real name, Robert F. Diggs, whereas the other credits he was credited by his stage name. However, UNLIKE the first film, he didn’t direct it this time, as it was directed by Roel Reine, who is known for directed a lot of straight-to-video sequels. I will admit that I have seen a good amount of his films, ranging from the Death Race prequels, Hard Target 2, and sequels to a few WWE Studios films such as The Marine 2, The Condemned 2, and 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded. What can I say? I have a strange thing for straight-to-video sequels, not to mention that I am also a wrestling fan.

With a different director at the helm this time, it had a different feel to the first film. As far as any returning characters go, RZA’s character, Thaddeus, is the only one to return. Sure, there were some flashback sequences to some characters from its predecessor, but only two of them were played by the same actors. It’s a totally different story this time, too, as Thaddeus went to a different village to seek a temple to make peace with himself. He was found wounded by some villagers and then found himself in the middle of a power conflict in that same village. I will say that RZA had more of a presence this time around, despite having not been seen for a half hour after the first scene he was in.

Another thing that was different this time around were the fight sequences with some characters. It appeared that a lot of the fight scenes included some legitimate martial artists and weren’t reliant on the use of wires. But was jarring were the editing and odd camera angles during those scenes. For example, one scene had two men fighting and then there were bird’s eye camera angles and then moved close to them and then changed angles, rinse and repeat. That didn’t take away from the fact that the fighting in those scenes was good, though, just the editing and cuts were a bit distracting.

Carl Ng, who played the main villain, Master Ho, seemed like he was having a blast playing that role. It’s like he really brought his A-game to it and was committed to it. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa did a good job in his role, too, and the twist/revelation towards the end was definitely something that I would not have expected and he is good as always. As for RZA, he didn’t do a bad job in his role. My main guess is that he was more or less swamped with a lot of his duties in the first film that he didn’t put a lot of effort into the role. He still has room for improvement as an actor, but he did a better job in this film (I didn’t mind him in Brick Mansions, looking back).

RZA also handled the score pretty well. I have always admired him as a producer and I think he should do film scores a lot more. But also like in the first film, there were some rap songs played in some scenes. Now I liked what I had heard, but the song just felt out of place and was just too anachronistic for this.

I must say that I found myself enjoying this film more than I thought that I would. I even enjoyed it more than the first film. A lot of the action scenes were actually decent, especially the big climax. As said before, the fight scenes could have been better without the odd edits and camera angles, but that’s about as far as I could go in regards to the flaws. I wonder now if RZA is planning to do a third film. Only time will tell.

3.5/5

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Rap Movie Review – The Man With The Iron Fists

Year of Release: 2012

Film Studio: Universal Pictures/Strike Entertainment/Arcade Pictures

When listening to a Wu-Tang album, it should be of no secret that RZA is a huge fan of Kung Fu flicks. It’s obvious by hearing some clips of them in some songs, especially in “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” Hell, there was a Kung Fu theme for their video game, “Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style,” a game I should cover one day. RZA has made it known that he is a fan and it is obvious with this film, “The Man With The Iron Fists.”

This film was basically RZA’s pet project as he has about five different credits for this film. That’s right, he had not only directed this film, but also came up with the story outline, he co-wrote the script with Eli Roth, he composed the film’s score, and of course, he also starred in the film. That must have been tiring for him as it’s not easy to have multiple duties like that. However, the only thing that was first for him was that it was his major film directorial debut as it was not the first time he had acted or composed a score, nor was it the first time he had come up with a film idea.

In the past, there was an idea that he wanted to get off the ground, which was a film adaptation of his Bobby Digital character, not to mention a trailer (or short film) was released in 2000 of it. Two years before TMWTIF came out, a short film called “Wu-Tang vs. The Golden Phoenix” had come out. It seemed like a precursor to this film as it has the same style. According to some sources, the development for this film came about not long after RZA had done the score for the “Kill Bill” films, which is probably the reason why Quentin Tarantino had his name as the presenter of the film, despite having no credits in this film at all. At some point, RZA had met Eli Roth and they had co-written the script and at some point, the script was rewritten and Roth was disappointed in the rewrite, that they had to change it up again. However, when the film was pitched to producers, they had trusted RZA to direct after having seen “Wu-Tang vs. The Golden Phoenix.”

As noted before, this was quite a step for RZA, especially having multiple credits in this film, but what about the film itself? How was the film? Well, before I get into that, I will note two things. One, I remember having a written a review of this film for my college newspaper back when it came out. I remembered I had praised the film, but so much time had passed that I was not sure where I stood with it. I gave it a lot of credit because I am a Wu-Tang fan and enjoyed some of the fight scenes, but at a certain point, I looked back and thought it was cheesy. The other thing that I must note is that for this review, I had decided to watch both the theatrical version and the unrated extended edition back-to-back to see the differences. It wouldn’t be the first time that I had watched two different cuts of a film back-to-back.

The film’s plot involved a faction, a British soldier, and some others on the hunt for gold, while a blacksmith (Played by RZA), who makes weapons for assassins and warriors, has to defend the village that is being invaded. It seems like a plot that had been done before, but I think that is what RZA was going for as it was done as a tribute to martial arts films from the 1970’s. But even with a simple story like that, it just seemed like it was all over the place.

There were some known names in this film, such as Lucy Liu, who played Madam Blossom, a madam for a brothel in the village, and Russell Crowe, who played Jack Knife, the mysterious British soldier whose presence was unknown until the end of the film. According to IMDB, Crowe had agreed to do this film in return for RZA teaching some rap lessons to a rugby team Crowe co-owns, as well as that he only worked on this film for 10 days. He must have been rather consistent in the time of shooting because he had a lot of screen-time. Actually, Liu and Crowe didn’t do a bad job in their performances in this film. Another known name, Dave Bautista, better known as Batista in WWE, as well as his portrayal of Drax in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, mainly played a brute in this film. He didn’t really have much to work with than just be a big, hulking brute who can turn his body into brass. But what about RZA? That is a really good question. For a guy who is supposed to be the title character, he took a backseat to a lot of the events of the film, whether it was with the villains, Crowe’s character, Liu’s character, or even Bautista’s character. Sure, he had to direct it for the most part, and he had screen-time, but he didn’t really have a lot to do, nor did he really act well in his role. It’s true that he has acting credits in his name, but he really isn’t much of an actor.

What this film shined in were the fight scenes, as a lot of the choreography was well-done for those scenes, especially the use of wires for the aerial attacks. Also the score from RZA was done well, too, as the music went well with the scenes that the tracks were used in. But what was distracting in the fight sequences was the use of CGI blood. Just looking at the blood squirting out of the wounds in those sequences can’t look any more fake than it already is. It would have been better if there were blood squibs used in those scenes to make it look more real. Also, about the music, while I loved how there was a remix of “Shame on a N****” used in a scene, as well as “Unpredictable,” it just felt slightly out of place as it was anachronistic, but then again, even some other anachronistic songs were used in some other sequences.

I have to give RZA some credit for this film as he is really passionate about martial arts films, but the end result just came out as average at best, with the cons slightly outweighing the pros. The story was not all that great and it really hard to follow what was really going on. Also, while some characters had a purpose in the plot, some of them were not really needed to drive the story. Some of the story aspects were vague. Some of the actors’ performances were fine, and with a film like this, the acting is not really essential to make it good, as this film’s selling point was the action itself. The action and the fighting were actually among the pros, but something about them was taken away with the use of CGI blood. The film didn’t hold up from my first viewing of it when I saw it in theaters, but it really was not terrible either. It didn’t deserve the praise that I gave it back then, but I didn’t mind it, either. It’s not a terrible way to spend a boring day with nothing to do.

One more thing, I am aware that there is a sequel to this film, but it’s straight-to-video. I guess RZA had some more story to tell and the film didn’t do well in theaters enough to justify a theatrical release for the sequel (It was shot on $15 million but made only $19 million). I will get to that soon. The same will be said about the soundtrack for this film.

If you want to read my original review, click here. Thank you.

5/10

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Movie Review – All Eyez on Me

Year of Release: 2017

Production Company: Summit Entertainment/Morgan Creek Productions/Program Pictures/Codeblack Films

It must be said: there is no denying that Tupac Shakur has maintained his popularity throughout the years, even more than two decades after his untimely demise. His deep-in-though lyrics really touched the minds and hearts of not just hip-hop fans, but also other people who have struggled in the things that were related to his music. It was apparent that a biopic would be made about the fallen rap star.

“All Eyez on Me” is the third rap biopic to be released theatrically, following 2009’s “Notorious” and 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton.” With the cultural impact that Pac had on the masses, there was no doubt that a biopic should be released in theaters.

However, unlike SOC, it’s sad to say that AEOM doesn’t have the best production value or even storytelling that SOC had.

The first thing that must be noted is that Demetrius Shipp Jr not only has a strong resemblance to Pac, but I have to give him credit for trying in his debut role. But I still had some issues with the film.

WARNING: There may be spoilers ahead.

The thing that was distracting about the film is that there was no real flow to the storytelling. The movie in a nutshell was mainly that Pac was interviewed by a journalist who was covering his life story. It talked about how Pac was brought up by his mother, who was a black panther and how he ended up starting off as an actor before becoming a rapper. Also, it showed a bit of his friendship with Jada Pinkett. So it talked about how he was first discovered by Digital Underground. I have to hand it to the casting director for casting the guy who played Shock G, as he looked so much like him and even had some of his mannerisms. Anyway, then it showed sequences filming certain scenes from movies like “Juice” and “Above The Rim.” I really wonder what the point of those scenes were. Yes, everyone knows that Pac was an actor as well, but I didn’t find any of that to be crucial to the story. I will say that I didn’t mind that those bits were recreated with some people playing the actors whom he shared those scenes with. I wonder if some scenes in that when he filmed “Poetic Justice,” “Gridlock’d,” and “Gang Related” were done but just left on the cutting room floor. I wonder about the actors who played Janet Jackson, Tim Roth, and Jim Belushi respectively, because the guy who was supposed to be Omar Epps looked nothing like him. The same could be said about Leon, the guy who played Pac’s character’s brother in ATR.

Another thing that I noticed was that clips of some music videos were recreated in some sequences like the video to Digital Underground’s “Same Song,” as well as “I Get Around.” Not to mention certain interviews in which every single word and mannerism were done to recreate them. As well as certain pictures that were shot, like the one with him and Faith Evans, and the infamous snapshot of him with Suge Knight right before the shooting in Vegas.

Of course, the film touched on the sexual assault charge that Pac was jailed for, as well as what led to his beef with Biggie. Speaking of whom, I noticed that the guy who played Biggie in “Notorious” was the same actor who played him in this film. I didn’t mind it, as Jamal Woolard is a rapper himself and had to use his prowess for rapping in a scene.

Then came when Pac joined Death Row Records. I am well aware of a lot of terrible and shady stuff that happened within that label, but certain sequences really made the film take it to a different level. It almost felt like I was watching a different movie. For example, during a scene at a dinner, when Suge Knight was about to confront someone, all of a sudden some ominous music started playing and then showed that he, along with other guys, started to torture this guy. In a way, I get that it was to show that Suge was a scumbag and a dangerous man, but that part made me think that I was watching a gangster movie at that moment. Same with when Suge and some other guys took some guy into a room and jumped him.

Another thing that was distracting was the guy who played Snoop Dogg. I actually wondered if Snoop lent his voice to dub the actor who played him. It sounded just like him that it could have been a dub.

Anyway, also, at that point, it talked about his romance with Kidada Jones, whom Pac was engaged to around the time of his death. That part felt shoehorned in, same with the bit of Jada Pinkett confronting Pac, which led to an alleged falling out between the two (More on this later). Same with how it showed the falling out between Snoop and Pac, and then came Vegas, and you know the rest. Oh, and I noticed that the real security footage from the casino beat-down that took place that very night was used. So it didn’t seem like he had to reenact that bit.

End Spoilers.

As I had stated before, I had no problem with Shipp’s portrayal of Tupac, as I can see that he tried his hardest to play the role. I also have no problem with some inaccuracies as I had noticed some of them in SOC. Around the time of its release, Jada Pinkett had noted on Twitter about how there was inaccuracy in the film, like how Pac read her a poem, or her having attended any of his shows. But the main problem I had is that it just jumped around from one sequence to another. It could be argued that it was because Pac was being interviewed and had stories to show and tell, but it still didn’t feel like what happened after was very consistent.

I really wonder if Lionsgate is going to put out an extended cut later on with a little more footage or at least have it edited better than what was shown in the final product. I can’t say that I liked or loved the film, but I am just curious because of so many things that I would like to see. I really wonder if there was some footage of reenactments of when he shot his other films and music videos.

Overall, I very much preferred “Straight Outta Compton.” It’s been years since I have seen “Notorious,” but I may need to revisit that one. I really can’t give this film a pass.

2/5

Standard