All Eyez on Me
By Khaleel Herbert
Rapper Tupac Shakur’s life hits the silver screen in All Eyez on Me.
Born in New York, Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) and his family lived in poverty. With his dad and stepdad out of the picture, Tupac steps up as man of the house with his mom, Afeni (Danai Guria) and sister, Set (Rayven Symone Ferrell). Tupac and his family eventually move to Baltimore, where Tupac attends the Baltimore School of Performing Arts where one of his best friends is Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham).
Just as things finally work out for Tupac, he and his sister are sent to California to live with a family friend. Afeni joins them, but Tupac sees her buying crack from a local dealer. Fed up with his mom, he checks her into a rehab center. Later, Tupac picks up rapping from writing poetry and eventually, with the help of some powerful friends, joins the rap group Digital Underground.
2Pacalypse Now with the hit, “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” is Tupac’s first album, which lands him a spot on Interscope Records. From there, Tupac releases more music, experiences numerous brushes with the law and speaks of equally for African-Americans, a trait he received directly from Afeni, who was a Black Panther.
All Eyez on Me was a poor biopic. Shipp Jr. was a phenomenal reincarnation of Tupac, but that wasn’t enough to hold me through the film. The scenes with Jada Pinkett were meaningful, but I wondered if they actually happened. Pinkett recently told the media about the inaccurate scenes with him and her. She said Tupac never read her the poem he wrote about her. She read it when it was published in The Rose that Grew from Concrete. She never said goodbye to him before he left for California and they never had arguments backstage after one of his shows.
There were also scenes where Tupac fell in love with Quincy Jones’ daughter. The scenes seemed unbelievable. Tupac dissed Quincy Jones, Eddie Murphy and even Spike Lee for not helping out African-Americans. The scenes with him and the Notorious B.I.G. weren’t good as well. They brought Jamal Woolard to reprise his role as Biggie, but he didn’t have that same edge that he did in 2009’s Notorious. Plus the guys who played Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg made me question, “Are these the only guys you could find?”
This biopic was too long and it didn’t have the same effect on me as Tupac: Resurrection and Notorious. In Tupac: Resurrection, Tupac’s story was explained in his own words. From starting with Digital Underground to thinking he was “set up” by Biggie when he was shot five times, Tupac described it all and it was incredible. Why would I want to hear someone’s story from someone else when I just heard it from the actual person?
Notorious was a different breed of biopic. Even though Biggie himself wasn’t narrating, the story was still powerful. They described his relationship with Tupac as chill and funny before they became nemeses. Also, one of the best scenes was Biggie’s mother taking her son’s body home and she saw all of his fans in the streets cheering him and playing his music, showing how much of an impact Biggie made on them. This didn’t happen with Tupac. It would have been nice if Afeni would have said farewell to her son or his fans made shrines for the rapper.
The only thing All Eyez on Me did right was playing most of Tupac’s songs from “I Get Around” to “Keep Ya Head Up” and “California Love.”
All Eyez on Me had hype, but it didn’t deliver. Stick with Tupac: Resurrection and his other documentaries where he’s telling his story. Tupac’s legacy and your wallet will thank you.
By Jon Rutledge
I have been disappointed in how the DC Universe has been rolling out. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (’16) was more like the Yawn of Justice. Suicide Squad (’16) was better but not enough to build a movie franchise on. These misses do not instill confidence for the franchise, with the pending release of Justice League all eyes are on Wonder Woman to see if there are hopes for the future. I absolutely love this film and hope and pray it’s a turning point. This movie has brought hope that DC Entertainment has finally gotten their act together to tell a story that gives a new life to a franchise and make it entertaining.
There are some minor changes to her original story, but with every new film we have to look past character choices that a new crew chooses and look at how it plays as a new interoperation. The director (Patty Jenkins) has relatively few projects under her belt. Her first film, Monster, was a hit and she has worked on a few television projects until Wonder Woman. She has proven again that films under her direction are some of the most engaging projects I have seen.
The setting of the WWI is a great backdrop for this version. Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) does a superb job of portraying the two different Diana characters we see in the film. One is older, with experiences from a very long life and more self-assured, and the other is seeing the outside world for the first time and beams with excitement of a new adventure while fulfilling her destiny. It’s the mark of a good performer to show us stark differences in the same character’s journey. She has the attitude and the strength to bring Wonder Woman to the screen.
The only criticism I would have would be that a few of the outstanding fight scenes which were not as smooth from a computer-generated imagery (CGI) standpoint. They blended live action and CGI, and sometimes you could see the transition. But that is the only negative I have about the film. Everything else was completely spot-on. The balance of story, action and humor was great. The humor in it was well-timed and in place with the situation. The characters were believable and well-liked. They had a wonderful chemistry on screen that was engaging.
This is the movie that should have started us off. It is exactly what we needed to launch a shared DC franchise. The studio needs to make this a new model for the films going forward. It’s nice to see touches of humor and some great color in a hero film. And this proves you can tackle dark subject matter and still provide a vibrant and entraining story. The success of this film makes me wonder where have they been hiding. I have always said that the DC animation studios have always outperformed the live action films in recent years. No more. Wonder Woman is here to show us there is still good in the DC Film universe.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
By Laurence Washington
This is the last one right? Pirates 5 is enjoyable in spots, but it really offers nothing new. So this is the last one… Right?
Here’s why the series can probably be safely retired. The storyline is a retread of the past Pirates films with Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) slurring his way through the film with a bottle of rum. A convincing portrayal of a seafaring scoundrel, offered by Depp, during the first Pirates film, which earned him an Oscar nomination. But on the fifth outing, Capt.
Jack’s shtick has become a little tiresome, cringe-worthy and boring.
Pirates 5 has a ton of energy, and as with most contemporary blockbusters, is loaded with CGI. However, it lacks the uniqueness and surprise of the first film. Pirates of the Caribbean (’03) was 25 minutes too long. But what 25 minutes would you remove? It was a terrific film with no false moves. I can easily tell you where to delete 25 minutes in Pirates 5 so the audience can get out early.
Be that as it may, Capt. Jack and his archenemy Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are in search of the Trident of Poseidon, a three-pronged spear that reverses sea curses. Capt. Jack is being pursued by Capt. Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), a revengeful pirate and his undead crew. So as you might have guessed, a curse remover would come in mighty handy. In addition, newcomer to the series, Brenton Thwaites plays Henry Turner, the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) who needs the curse lifted so his father will be freed from the curse of the Flying Dutchmen.
In all fairness, the Pirates franchise has a presold audience, and fans of the first film who want to see the original characters Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom assembled yet again, will enjoy it for that fact. As for the rest of us, we’re ready to abandon ship and move on.
By Khaleel Herbert
Tom Cruise plays the cocky adventurous Nick Morton, who awakens a mummy from her dirt nap in The Mummy.
While encountering a barrage of bullets in an Iraqi village, Nick and his partner in crime, Chris (Jake Johnson), are saved by an airstrike from Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) who commands the duo to search a sinkhole that appeared in the middle of the village because of the Egyptian statue. How Egyptian artifacts ended up under Iraq, I’ll never know. Nick and Chris hope they find something valuable so they can sell it on the black market.
The duo is accompanied by Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), an expert archeologist, who claims Nick stole a map from her after their one-night-stand. While Jenny and Chris scour the sinkhole-turned-cavern, they notice a pulley system that leads to a pool of mercury. Nick decides to shoot his pistol at a rope that activates the pulley. A sarcophagus is raised from the pool and some “poisonous” camel spiders scurry from the hollows.
The sarcophagus contains the Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was the most beautiful woman in Egypt long ago. When she discovered that her rightful place as ruler would be taken by her baby brother (damn siblings!), she turned to dark magic and killed her family. She was mummified and buried alive. Thanks to Nick, she was released.
The Mummy has some similarities to its 1999 predecessor starring Brendan Fraser. Imhotep was awakened by greedy archeologists looking for gold. Didn’t their mothers ever teach them to never dig up mummies and priceless artifacts without asking permission? There’s also the coincidence of Ahmanet sucking the life out of mortals to regain her true form. The twist is that she kisses her victims and they become her minions.
There are distinct differences with this Cruise-version. First, the mummy is a female. She wants Cruise to be her immortal lover since he woke her up. Basically, she’s a lovesick mummy who scours all of London to find her king, romantic and a bit creepy. The flashbacks are great because we see how beautiful Ahmanet was before the mummification. Plus, it’s funny to watch her pummel Cruise each time he tries to attack her. The movie should be called something like, The Egyptian Princess or simply, Egyptian Princess Beats Up Adventurer.
The flashbacks and the powerful queen searching for her king is also a rehash of Queen of the Damned. Vampire Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) sought out Lestat (Stuart Townsend), who revealed all of the vampires’ secrets through rock-n-roll songs. She was fascinated with him and wanted him to rule by her side. I like Akasha and Ahmanet because, like male rulers, they’re fierce and ruthless. They’ll kill whoever’s in their way to get what they want and they’re played by incredible actors.
The Mummy, is actually an action-comedy. Cruise gets the funnybones shakin’ with his quick one-liners and gestures including repeatedly shooting a man on a plane and getting under Jenny’s skin. Plus, when you think you have the ending all figured out, there’s a twist.
This version has similarities to the 90s classic, but Cruise and Boutella’s stellar acting takes this Mummy to a different level and keeps you entranced to the end.
By Khaleel Herbert
Who remembers David Hasselhoff diving in to save people or the iconic Pamela Anderson wearing a red swimsuit and running in slow motion? For all you youngsters, that was Baywatch the TV show, a.k.a. what this movie-reboot tried to imitate.
Baywatch begins with Mitch (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) running to save a man who fell from his parasail and struck his head on a rock in the ocean. Mitch carries the man in his arms back to shore.
While others are preparing to try out for the Baywatch team, Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a pretty boy hotshot, rides with his bad-to-the-bone motorcycle onto the beach. He tells Mitch that he doesn’t need to train and is certified to join the team since he won two Olympic gold medals in swimming. Mitch tells Brody that he has to compete in the obstacle course, which includes lifting refrigerators and big tires.
At the end of the day, Brody makes the team, but screws up twice in attempting to be the hero. When unexpected murders and flakka wash up on the shores, the Baywatch crew investigate and go undercover, a job Brody thinks the police should handle.
Baywatch had some good times. The Rock does a decent job filling Hasselhoff’s shoes, but I wish he acted more like Bob Stone from Central Intelligence. He was a lovable oaf and way funnier.
The names of the characters from the show stuck and they even pulled off the new CJ’s (Kelly Rohrbach) slow-mo running scene. But this movie is just a raunchy version of the show. The sex jokes and foul language are repetitive and annoying. The only memorable scene was Ronnie (Jon Bass), one of the new Baywatch recruits, falling on a wooden chair and getting his junk caught in it after seeing CJ.
If Baywatch has taught us anything, it’s Hollywood needs to leave the classics alone and come up with fresher ideas. If you want to see this movie, wait until it comes out on DVD or airs on FX or MTV. But if you want to see the real Baywatch, watch the old TV show. You’re eyes and wallet will greatly appreciate it.