Rap Movie Reviews

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

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Documentaries

Documentary Review – Welcome To Death Row

Year of Release: 2001

Production Company: Xenon Pictures

For a while, I have been considering reviewing documentaries. I have done album reviews (Though I should also review more albums from groups and artists), as well as movies with rappers in them, and I also plan to write about a few biopics in the future, and there are so few of those (I guess I should also include the TV movies like the one about Hammer and the one about TLC, as well as others).

What I am going to talk about right now is “Welcome To Death Row,” which is the documentary on, you guessed it, Death Row Records and how it rose to the top of the rap game and fell from grace.

This film documented everything well, from how Dr. Dre and Suge Knight had started the label, to bringing in Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound, to people talking about how Suge was a nightmare to work with, and also to Tupac Shakur’s arrival to the label and everything else that lead to its downfall.

I remember having watched it on, I think, Encore or Starz a long time ago and ended up watching it from the part when it talked about Suge and Dre forming the label but trying to find a parent label to back it, all to the way to the end. So I got to see from the start, when it talked about when Dre was with N.W.A. and how he met Suge when he was a bodyguard for the group. Also, how Dre was still sort of in connection with Priority Records, which backed Ruthless Records, the label Dre was a part of when he was in N.W.A., which was a point in the whole feud between him and Eazy-E.

Now I am not going to summarize the whole story about its rise and fall. What I am going to touch on are the documentations of the events during the label’s reign. I have my read my share of stories about the shady dealings that the label went through, like how Suge had some fellow gang members work security for him or work for him at some other capacity in the label. Each of the interview footage that was shown told a lot of detail about what some people had gone through during their time working there or at least working WITH the label. It seemed like only a few people were interviewed around the time this documentary was being shot. The ones who I saw were recruited during that specific time were Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Jewell (Not, I repeat, NOT to be confused with Jewel Kilcher, the folk and country singer; this artist had that extra L in her name and it was pronounced “ju-ell”) and others who were journalists, publicists, rappers, and so forth. However, some other interviews were archived footage that were edited into the film, particularly the ones from Dre and RBX.

The only thing that was distracting regarding the interview footage was that some of the editing and camera work relied too heavily on odd camera angles and closeups. Sure, some of the footage was fine when it shot the interviewees from a standard angle and a minor closeup was fine. But it didn’t need to get to a point where one guy was talking, but you could see the majority of his face but not his mouth.

Also, being that I watched this on Xfinity On Demand, it seemed that this was an updated version as right at the end, it documented what had happened in recent years. It even mentioned about how Jerry Heller was portrayed by Paul Giamatti in “Straight Outta Compton,” which released 14 years after this had come out. It also even talked about how Death Row was acquired by WIDEawake and eOne, which had happened later, also.

I also must add that there has been talk in the past about how some people want to do an actual movie about Death Row one day, especially after the success of “Straight Outta Compton.” Personally, I am not even sure how they would do it. If they do it, should they cast different actors to play certain guys? The reason I wonder is because with “All Eyez on Me” coming out not too long from now, I wonder who could play Tupac. The guy who played him in AEOM? Or the guy who was seeing for a few seconds in SOC? Or even the guy who played him in that Michel’le TV movie, “Surviving Compton”? Also, would the guy who played Dre in SOC be brought back? That is a good question. Don’t get me wrong, the movie makes for a good story even on a cinematic level, but it just seems hard to cast some parts when there have been a couple of films that came out in recent memory with different actors playing certain people and one coming really soon and having other people play those same people. Though there are some exceptions. Suge Knight was played the same guy in both “Straight Outta Compton” and in “Surviving Compton,” while Biggie in “All Eyez on Me” was played by the same guy who played him in “Notorious.”

Anyway, this documentary gets a pass.

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Compilation Review – Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes

Year of Release: 2002

Label: Murder Inc Records/Murda Management

Here I am in my final review of the Murder Inc compilations. Okay, technically that is not true as I have the soundtrack to The Fast and The Furious to do, but I will do that for my Fast & Furious soundtrack marathon special when the eighth film comes out. But other than that, I had devoted this month to reviewing the compilations from The Inc. I may do some other stuff in the future like maybe try to review Ja Rule’s albums, maybe Ashanti’s albums and Lloyd’s albums as I am not opposed to doing reviews of R&B albums for this site. I also am considering finding a way to listen to the unreleased albums of Vita and Charli Baltimore, or at least some unreleased material that they put out. Until then, I am closing off this special with “Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes.”

This album was released four months after “Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc,” which I can say that at the time the label was on fire (Until 50 Cent started making it a trend to hate on the label). While the second Murder Inc compilation was done to showcase what more the label had to offer during that time, this compilation was released to showcase, well, remixes, at least for the most part.

You would know if a song is a remix because on the back of the case it says “Remix,” but not all of the songs are remixes. Some of them are original tracks that feature some of the label’s talent, and I suppose that Gotti wanted to release them to help market them. Or maybe they didn’t make the cut for the previous compilation.

I first must talk about the remixes to Ashanti’s hit songs from that time. The main thing that I had noticed is that there are TWO remixes to “Baby,” one of which had Scarface and the other had Crooked I. The version with Scarface was similar to the original version and he did a couple of verses that went well with the song. I have a feeling that Face’s contribution to the song was probably because “Baby” had the exact same beat as his song called “Mary Jane” from his album, “Untouchable.” As for the version with Crooked I, he had a couple of verses, too, but there were some parts that I felt were a bit out of place when he rapped. No disrespect for Crooked I, but I didn’t exactly think much of that version. He had decent rhymes and is a good rapper, but his bit seemed out of place when he rapped about thuggin’ and stuff. Scarface, on the other hand, had some deep rhymes in that version. If anything, I think the Scarface version is better.

As for the “Happy” remix, while the original sampled the Gap Band’s “Outstanding” to some degree, this version had lifted the beat completely and it felt like a cover to that song. Ashanti even paid homage to that song in some parts, while Charli Baltimore, D.O. Cannon, and Young Merc added the raps to the song.

If you want to talk about a good remix on here, look no further than the remix to “The Pledge.” While Ashanti sang the chorus this song and the beat was the same, it felt like a different song from the original as there was more emphasis on Nas and Ja Rule rapping on this song. One thing that I noticed is that Ja took a few shots at DMX in this song (As they were beefing during that time) and he sort of bit 2Pac in some areas (Let’s not get into the closing parts of the song or the whole thing that escalated in his beef with 50 Cent), he did a good job in this song. Nas also did a good job in his part.

I could only think of one other remix to a song that was worth noting. The remix to “O.G.” from Black Child and Caddillac Tah actually improved on the original. However, the remix to “No One Does It Better” did not include Charli Baltimore at all as she was in the original. I didn’t mind it, but there could have been one verse from her when it was mainly Ja, Tah, and Black Child on it.

The rest of the album were original tracks that I wondered why they were there in the first place. One song in particular was “Me and My Boyfriend” from Toni Braxton, which Irv Gotti had produced. Now I don’t think it’s a bad song. Toni’s vocals are good as always she always impresses with her singing, but this song was more or less a knock-off or cover of 2Pac’s “Me and My Girlfriend,” but then again you also had “03 Bonnie and Clyde” from Jay-Z and Beyonce that came out around the same time. The rest of the original tracks felt like filler, with the exception of “Come-N-Go,” which was a standout.

For some reason, the album also included “Rainy Dayz” from Mary J. Blige and Ja Rule, and also “Unfoolish” from Ashanti and The Notorious B.I.G. I find this pointless considering how “Unfoolish” was already on Ashanti’s self-titled album and “Rainy Dayz” was on the 2002 re-release of “No More Drama.” In some ways I could understand the latter being on here, but in that case, there could have also been other remixes added to here like “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny,” both of which had Jennifer Lopez. I am aware that they were released on different albums prior to this, but being that this was a remix album, why couldn’t they include those songs?

To Murder Inc’s credit, there were some decent tracks on here that stand out. Some of the other songs felt like filler. I am not really sure where I stand on this album, even though I very much prefer the other two compilations that they had put out. I know it’s a remix album, so it’s different, but at the same time there was some room for improvement in some areas. I would say that this album was just average at best.

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The Pledge Remix
  2. Baby Remix (The one with Scarface)
  3. Come-N-Go
  4. I’m So Happy Remix
  5. O.G. Remix
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Teaser trailer of “All Eyez on Me” and my take on it.

all-eyez-on-me-biopic-on-set-outlawz-tupac

Hello, readers. I usually try to do my posts on a weekly basis, but because I just recently found out that a teaser trailer for the 2Pac biopic, I thought that I share this with people and also my take on it.

I know that this is only the teaser and in the months to come prior to its release, there will be more shown in there. However, all I could say is that I hope that this movie is good. I was impressed by “Straight Outta  Compton” when it came out last summer, but I still haven’t revisited it, not to mention that I have not seen the director’s cut of it yet. I also remember seeing “Notorious” a long time ago, but it’s been more than seven years. I may need to watch that again soon and maybe review it on here.

All I can say is that I can’t wait until November when this comes out. Peace!

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