Happy Friday the 13th! I hope this review finds you well and ready for the weekend to begin…’cause Lawd knows I am.
Speakin’ of Compton, it’s makin’ me sick, everybody’s talkin' that crazy ishhhhh. And that’s how this week’s reviews will commence. What F. Gary Gray’s latest film brings to the world is a taste of what reality has become for many, many people who are often overlooked or not thought of, but who mandate so much of what socio-cultural society now follows and co-opts like nothing since blues rock was ripped off by Elvis, peace be upon him. Straight Outta Compton opens up with a scene that follows Eazy-E (real name Eric Wright) as he gets embroiled in a drug deal gone awry then busted up by the police. Everyone who has heard of the success of this film Stateside knows that this is not only the story of N.W.A, the quick rise and death of formerly-mentioned Eazy-E, and the subsequent rise and explosion of L.A. gangsta rap, but also the first history of so many impresarios in this new age of the music industry, from Dre to Ice Cube to Tupac and Snoop Dogg. The way Gray has woven the story from the mid-Eighties into the mid-Nineties only leaves room for what could be a second telling of the last 20+ years of the rise of hip hop music from the West Coast of the US. Watching the film (and I certainly come from the school of when this was all going down), it is absolutely impossible for me not to look at it from an historical standpoint. It represents a cultural understanding of the music industry of late, African-American culture across the States (and globe, frankly) and the reality of today’s black society in the States and beyond, so poignantly and captivatingly scripted, told and acted—it’s hard NOT to imagine a sequel and the film just flies by. Alas, the story of hip-hop from L.A. and beyond is a long and hard one to do justice to. This film is a brilliant stab at that. Absolutely brilliant! ####
Oh, my dear Emily Blunt. Who knew when the world was introduced to you on a grand scale via The Devil Wears Prada, you’d be married to a comic, small-screen actor and a new American? The film Sicario, meaning ‘hitman', takes on the border struggles between the US and Mexico in a tour de force of intense action sequences, real life drama that is scripted no doubt but all too real nonetheless, and a group of actors who slay in their roles. From Mrs. Blunt to Benicio del Toro to Josh Brolin and Max Hernandez as corrupt mejicano policeman Silvio, this ensemble cast under the direction of Denis Villeneuve has helped construct one of the finest films on this topic…perhaps ever. When a raid goes awry in Arizona, Katie Mercer (Blunt) and her partner Reggie, played by the smooth Daniel Kaluuya, are led to take on an undercover case for the Dept. of Defense/CIA. This then leads to Juarez and the revelation of corruption that is clearly exploding on both sides of the borders. This is all too true, children. Believe me, I was born in Texas. What French director Villeneuve and writer Taylor Sheridan have crafted is an opus to current police work and secret investigations that plague, have plagued and will continue to plague the controlled, paid-off, and well-orchestrated 'war on drugs'. This film is an intense, if gritty, dramatic thriller and is an ode to decent filmmaking documenting real struggles. ####
My first memory of Tommy Lee Jones came from The Fugitive when I was a mere teen of fourteen, a bit over two decades ago. Since then, his filmography has included some impeccable and some forgettable movies, but what has always been consistent with Jones is the challenging of himself as an artist. Whether he’s character acting, producing, writing or directing, it is a testament to this Texan that he has never stopped working his craft since the late Sixties when he high-tailed it from the big TX to NYC…yet another reason why I respect this man. Ten years ago, he debuted his first, big-screen directorial feature called The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and it’s clear with his latest effort that westerns are his forté. Here he produces alongside Luc Besson, co-writes, directs and co-stars in The Homesman, the story of (yet again) another jointer through rough country whilst on a mission for redemption. The lead actor weights falls on the sturdy shoulders of Hillary Swank, who frankly has been hard pressed to turn in anything superb on celluloid in quite awhile, say eleven years since winning her second Oscar for Million Dollar Baby. Here, she plays Mary Bee Cuddy a single woman and farmer who is given the task of seeing three women of mental instability across the prairie into Iowa, but not before fate crosses her path with claims jumper George Briggs, whom she rescues and indentures into aiding her across the country to Iowa. What follows is a Jonesesque version of the American West in the mid-1800s but tackling the issue of female mental health, female role identity and general survival, Jones and co-writers Wesley Oliver and Kieran Fitzgerald have adapted a story that gives much more than expected, despite its grim results at times. Also, Meryl Streep pops up toward the end. Quite simply, a superb film, yet again. ###-1/2
Finally, the poor man’s version of Danny Boyle’s original Shallow Grave. Here we have an Americana/British remake with two US stars living in London after the necessity of a life change. The Film is called Good People and stars James Franco and Kate Hudson. Let me be clear that the film, which received some minor distribution late last year/early 2015, is easy to get captivated by, what with the grainy and visceral reality of the situation. But when a dead body in their humble abode also reveals a bag of pound notes totalling well over £200,000, things take a turn for the worst. Enter in the delectable Omar Sy as a French drug dealer and his geezer cronies chasing the missing money down, and we immediately enter into yet another formulaic thriller that has much more bark than bite. Hudson is DOA in her performance as Franco looks like he just wanted a London break and some mushy peas, so he jumped onboard this cold yet somewhat filling turkey. Me thinks DVD or VOD might be a better option! ##
Have yourself a merry little weekend and a happy new week come Monday, lovelies! I’ll check you out real soon. Besos!