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    Now Playing at Sayville Cinemas
    August 27, 2015 9:38 am  
    Now Playing at Sayville Cinemas

    by Liam Haber

    Straight Outta Compton

    It took me a few hours and a number of conversations to fully appreciate Straight Outta Compton. I walked out of the movie slightly disappointed, but most just nonplussed at the film in general. I knew a little of the music and some of the story, but found myself at a loss for what to think of the movie in the first place. It took a conversation with my friend who knew nothing about the story and my brother, a fan of rap music, to really appreciate what I had seen. And it certainly was worth it.

    Today, Andre Young is a multibillionaire, both for his skills as a music producer and for founding and selling the company Beats to Apple. O’Shea Jackson is an actor, most recently seen in the likes of 22 Jump Street and Ride Along. Eric Wright is dead. To the world, these three men are known as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E respectively, the three most famous members of the infamous group NWA. Between 1986 and 1991 this group took on the world, inciting riots and causing chaos and changing the culture of America forever. Straight Outta Compton, named after the first album the group put out, shows the good, the bad and the ugly of this time, focusing mainly on the three aforementioned superstars.

    Compton is not a perfect movie, but I found myself entertained. There are a lot of problems with the film, including a bloated run time and a self-congratulatory feel that is mainly undeserved. Because the movie is produced by subjects of the film Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, neither of them come off in a poor light. Of the main members of the group, Eazy-E gets the harshest treatment, likely because he has no way of shaping the film from beyond the grave. The movie is dedicated to the life of E, but seems to treat him like trash, partly because most of his plot involves conflicts with Ice Cube and Dre. Along the same line, none of the major characters seem to face any consequences for the actions they do, including the physical and, at one point, even sexual assault of multiple characters. Drugs, drinking and dumb decisions seem to have no influence on what the men do, leading to a sense of invincibility, quite similar to the problems with Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. While most will know that these actions are wrong, I have a feeling that the actions will end up misinterpreted to be heroic by teenagers who want to have the life of the rich and famous.

    The greatest highlight of the film in my mind was the performance of Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre. Much like most of the major cast Hawkins is relatively unknown, but he gives the best-rounded performance in the film, likely the result of both the life of Dr. Dre being the most cinematic and Hawkins being a better actor than most of the people he shares the screen with. Paul Giamatti gives a performance of great fear and horror, very similar to his role in another musical biopic this year the superior Love & Mercy. Finally, Lisa Renee Pitts, an actress who is best known for being “Letter Writer #2” in Her, acts her heart out as the mother of Dr. Dre, an outstanding if limited role.

    Before talking with my friend and brother I was thinking of this movie in a less positive light, but hearing one person who is a fan of the music and another who knew nothing about it talk about how it works as both an introduction to the story and an illustration of history for those who know it, I learned to appreciate what was here. Straight Outta Compton feels like a vanity piece of Dre and Cube, especially considering the casting department seemed to want actors who looked the part more than could act the part. Considering Ice Cube cast his son to play himself, vanity is a key word here. But it is a success in ways that other biopics on more rote individuals aren’t. The scene focusing on the LA Riots is both the best and shortest scene in the movie, but it shows the time. More scenes like that would be of greater service to the film. But nevertheless, director F. Gary Gray still creates a movie I want to see, and he tells a story I want to hear.

    The music of NWA doesn’t exactly speak to me. I don’t listen to rap, and I only knew the barebones of the story before sitting down in the theater. But that doesn’t make it less enjoyable. There is a movie here that could have been better if out of the hands of the subjects themselves, but that doesn’t discredit what is here. Gray isn’t fantastic behind the camera, but he still makes something worth paying attention to. And if this is the star-making turn for Hawkins, we should be grateful for this movie to exist at all.

    Liam’s Rating: 3.5/5

    Straight Outta Compton. Directed by F. Gary Gray. Starring Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell and Paul Giamatti. 2hr 27min. Rated R (for many reasons). Now Playing at Sayville Cinemas!

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

    Beneath all of the artificiality and glamour of the film, there is something unique and sincere about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It certainly is dressed up like your typical summer romp, and there is very little depth to anything, from the characterization to the plot. But I still found something to like in Guy Ritchie’s latest, sleekest movie. From the first scene until the last, the movie never tried to be better than it was. Were the term still applicable to blockbusters like this, this would be a modern B-Movie, and it is exactly what we need at a time this late in the summer.

    I am not the most familiar with Ritchie’s other works, although I have seen what would be considered his closest simile to U.N.C.L.E., 2009’s Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The bromance of that movie is what makes it fun, much like with the leads here. Yes, there’s a romantic interest present in both films, but she isn’t the star, or the focus. The real fun is with the men in charge. Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) are at their best and campiest, playing the Russian Illya Kuryakin and the American Napoleon Solo respectively. There is such natural competitive chemistry that every fight they have is entertaining, be it for who gets to drive a boat to battling over female lead Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) as Gabby Teller.

    The first scene in the movie is easily the best, partly because of the stakes. Much like the Mad Magazine comic “Spy vs. Spy,” Solo and Kuryakin race around East Berlin on foot, in car, and over rooftops, showcasing not just the fight between these two spies, but also very clearly illustrating the tensions at the times, the effects of the Cold War. And it certainly is entertaining. It took me about ten minutes to get fully on board with the movie, and I think that if you don’t feel exactly the same way after the same amount of time, it might not be the movie for you. Had the entire movie been chase scenes like this, I would have never left the theater. But perhaps for the better, it does develop a plot. Alas, I would pay any amount of money for Spy vs. Spy: The Movie to exist soon.

    Instead, a sometimes confusing plot emerges about a nuclear warhead and a fight for control over it. Yes, there is something there, but I don’t really see it. And the way the script is written and the film is edited, it seems to me that not only do I not care about it, they didn’t either. But if you are looking for a movie about the intricacies of Cold War relations or an action movie consisting of more than scenes, this is not for you. But the performances are great, and Ritchie directs some fun action scenes, shot beautifully by John Mathieson. The last time that Italy has been home to such beautiful action scenes was probably the original The Italian Game, the chase scene to end all chase scenes.

    Finally, I recommend seeing this movie if only to hear the music. The score from Daniel Pemberton clips along magnificently, well suiting most of the action scenes. But even better is the soundtrack of music from the sixties and before, including the music of Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and more. If nothing else, see the movie for the music. You shouldn’t be disappointed.

    Liam’s Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, and Alicia Vikander. Rated PG-13. 1hr 54min. Now Playing at Sayville Cinemas!

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