This week at the movies: a rap-to-riches true story and a remake of a mod-era TV spy thriller.
Straight Outta Compton
A biopic of N.W.A., the notorious West Coast gangsta rap group of the early nineties, Straight Outta Compton charts how Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube came together and changed the genre with their controversial records—and then split up and had contentious solo careers. The director is F. Gary Gray, who hails from commercial and video work; the producers are none other than the real-life Dre and Ice Cube, themselves. The cast, young actors who fit like a glove in the roles (a hard feat, considering most of them are alive and our memories of them still strong). Starring Corey Hawkins at Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, O’shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s son, as Ice Cube, and Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller, their manager.
Perfect For: Hip Hop fans and fans of a good biopic with a rags-to-riches tale.
What the Critics Say: Pretty good, a little formulaic, and the casting is creepy accurate. Writes Entertainment Weekly: “if you’re like me, you’ll forgive its more melodramatic clichés and just surrender to its raw, brass-knuckle force.” Says the Chicago Sun-Times: “The casting in Straight Outta Compton is universally pitch perfect, including brief cameos by Keith Stanfield as Snoop and Marcc Rose as Tupac that are fantastically spot on.”
Our Take: Looks great! Yes.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Guy Ritchie, the former Mr. Madonna, returns to the camera, directing a remake based on the 60s TV series. It’s a Cold War spy flick, with a Russian KGB agent (Armie Hammer) squaring off against a CIA agent (played by Henry Cavill). True to form, there are hot girls (Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander), car chases, dashing outfits and fabulous party scenes.
Perfect For: Fans of James Bond movies will not be disappointed.
What the Critics Say: Mixed to negative. Seems like it’s got a great look and moves along swiftly, but is not terribly good as a movie. Writes Entertainment Weekly: “Long on style but short on substance, Guy Ritchie's ring-a-ding-ding Cold War spy thriller attempts to resurrect a mothballed '60s TV series the way that Mission: Impossible did. It doesn't work this time.” And says Variety: “An unusually restrained Guy Ritchie serves up solid entertainment with a classy touch, but bland leads and no-sizzle chemistry make this slick '60s TV adaptation forgettable.”
Our Take: We’d still probably see it if we were in the mood for a lighthearted romp.