When Straight Outta Compton became last year's unexpected hit of the summer (that we all saw coming), my buddy Scotty warned me to expect a slew of rapper movies as Hollywood predictably looks to its last hit for future success. Compton ended up being the highest grossing music biopic of all time so All Eyez On Me, the Tupac Shakur biopic, was probably inevitable, but watching the trailer is both exicting and nerve wracking... can Tinseltown pull it off?
It's 20 years this week since 'Pac was gunned down outside the Maxim Hotel in Las Vegas and he remains one of hip hop's most iconic legends. Known for his flow, lyricism and the intellectual and emotional depth he brought to his songs Tupac truly was a hip-hop outlier whose Machiavellian influence on the art form can't be understated.
Movie fans will also remember Tupac as the first rapper to really hold down a feature film in 1992's Juice. (Certainly, Boyz n the Hood preceded Juice and launched Ice Cube into Hollywood, but the role was a supporting one to Cuba Gooding Jr's. Months later, New Jack City was a bigger hit for Ice-T, but Tupac was a far more nuanced and watchable actor. He also starred in Above The Rim, Poetic Justice and opposite Tim Roth in the underrated heroin-jazz flick Gridlock'd, released in 1997 after 'Pac was already gone.
So will All Eyez on Me be any good? It might be — there seems to be lots of important (and still relevant) black revolutionary subtext in there and unknown actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. looks the part well enough. On the other hand, music video director Benny Boom has no real track record with feature films and veteran directors John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning) and Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Southpaw) have both been attached to the flick at some point but passed on it (Singleton especially needs a hit so that is worrisome).
Only time will tell for All Eyez On Me but the rapper-movie floodgates seem to be open, and weird shit is already flowing through: the Chinese already made a Tupac movie last year called Until the End of Time that looks utterly whack, and last week a flick about police corruption and the Tupac/Biggie murders starring Johnny Depp was announced. It's called Labyrinth and, sorry, David Bowie is not it. All Eyes On Me hits screens Nov. 11, Remembrance Day.
In the Village 8 this week, Florence Foster Jenkins stars Meryl Streep as a super rich New York socialite who aspires to, and becomes, an opera singer despite having a shitty voice. It's based on a true story and looks incredibly grandparent-friendly, but I can't see this one doing all that well in Whistler, a youthful community and reigning binge-drinking champion of the province. In case you needed another reason to skip it, Hugh Grant also stars.
On the other side of things, Blair Witch opens this week. The 1999 original kicked off the entire "found footage" sub-genre and made a crapload of money off a tiny budget, so Hollywood is ready to rehash that for sure. The setup is really not all that different this time around: kids unwisely go into the woods to investigate something they probably should have left alone (hint: witch!) and it all goes to shit. The filming techniques (drones!) and story are updated a bit, but otherwise Blair Witch sticks closely to what worked the first time around, with way better scares. Horror converts will dig it but this could also be the nail in the found-footage coffin.
Snowden also opens, staring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick, The Night Before) as infamous NSA whistlerblower Edward Snowden and directed by Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers, Platoon, Savages) who is no stranger to controversial films or trying to stick it to the powers that be.
As a conversation starter, Snowden is finally a return to form for Stone — this movie will make audiences think about, or reconsider, timely topics like freedom, security, treachery and surveillance in the digital age. And that alone makes the movie worth watching in an era where Big Brother is not only watching, he's recording, indexing, cross referencing and, sometimes, laughing at you when you masturbate.
Speaking of, my girl Amy will be happy to hear that Nicolas Cage is in Snowden too. Cage is like the Tupac of shitty movies.