Rap Movie Reviews

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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Rap Movie Reviews

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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