Tag Archives: Jason Mitchell

‘Superfly’ is SuperFine Enough

As far as remakes of 20th century movies go, this has to be one of the more obscure choices…

“Superfly” is the updated telling of the 1972 blaxploitation film “Super Fly” and stars Trevor Jackson as an Atlanta drug dealer who tries to set up the infamous “one last job” before getting out of the criminal underworld. Jason Mitchell, Michael K. Williams, Lex Scott Davis and Jennifer Morrison also star as Director X, best known for helming music videos, makes his directorial debut.

We’ve seen music video directors try their hand of directing feature films, such as Benny Boom with last year’s Tupac biopic “All Eyez on Me,” “The Amazing Spider-Man’s” Marc Webb and even David Fincher (as you can tell, results vary).  Director X (real name Julien Christian Lutz) has worked with the likes of rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar and here he is occasionally able to show the glitz and glamor of the Atlanta nightlife. Much like “Casino,” his characters live in a world of excess so the houses are too big, the clubs too busy and the cars too extravagant; but unlike “Casino,” he doesn’t really do anything with it, nor is there the “desert scene” that shows the empty contrast when a character comes close to losing it all.

The shootouts and fight scenes all seem to be shot competently but Director must’ve gone to the Zack Snyder film of action filming because every time a character is punched or shot the film instantly shifts into slow-motion for no reason whatsoever. As we are all wise to by this point in the game, this is a move by amateur directors to try and increase tension or seem artistic but in reality drains a scene of any real momentum or style.

The performances are mostly fine, in a film that builds itself off being just that: fine. Main man Trevor Jackson, best known for his work on the very good “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish,” holds his own even if it is at times hard to take him completely serious as a kingpin who knows every inch of the Atlanta streets and commands respect (his hair is constantly perfect though, so props to the makeup team). Should be two-time Academy Award nominee Jason Mitchell and actual two-time Emmy nominee Michael K. Williams both add a sense of gravitas as partners-in-crime of Jackson, even if both are given nothing to do and know exactly what sort of movie they’re in.

Meanwhile the two police characters, played by Brian F. Durkin and Jennifer Morrison, are from a completely different movie than everyone else and are total cartoons. Morrison overacts a lot of her lines while Durkin is introduced making an arrest and is talk-singing the rap song “Ridin’ Dirty” and it is full-blown cringe and he only gets worse from there.

“Superfly” is super fine, like a low-ranking drug dealer. It may have grand ambitions but has no idea how to obtain them, may have the pieces in place to rise above but seems content just getting by on good enough. The “one last job” storyline is one we’ve seen over and over since the original “Super Fly” and this film, already showing us characters we’ve seen before, seems fine with not taking risks.

Critic’s Grade: C

Sony Pictures

Go Straight to the Theater to Check Out ‘Compton’

Straight_Outta_Compton_posterWell aside from that sad excuse for a Fantastic Four reboot, August has been uncharacteristically good to us so far this year.

“Straight Outta Compton” tells the real-life tale of the Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) and Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), and the rise and fall of their 1980’s rap group, N.W.A. Paul Giamatti also stars as F. Gary Gray directs.

I have been excited for this film ever since I saw the trailer in February (I don’t think saying I’ve watched it over 30 times since would be an exaggeration). It gave me the chills seeing rap legends’ names on screen, while at the same time getting me pumped up hearing all of N.W.A’s classic songs. So needless to say, I had high hopes for this movie, and it met if not exceeded near every one of them.

Right off the bat, “Compton” got its casting perfectly. I don’t think a casting director has ever gotten a shout-out in a movie review, but here’s giving one Cindy Tolan props, because she nailed it. Every actor in this film, most of them making their starring role debuts, looks like, sounds like, and full on becomes the real-life person they’re portraying. O’Shea Jackson, Jr. is Ice Cube’s son in real life, so saying this was the role he was born to play may be a bit of an understatement. Jason Mitchell also kills it as Eazy E, and carries two of the film’s most emotional scenes.

The first half of this film is some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. It is filled with such energy, and following the group around in their early stages is both engaging and interesting. There are several concert scenes that you almost have to restrain yourself from standing up and joining in on the mosh pit of people swaying along to Ice Cube singing “F tha Police.”

Which brings me to my next point: much like “Selma,” this film, despite being set in the past, is very relevant to today. What N.W.A started from was the desire to voice their frustration about police brutality against minorities, and while the film certainly has its viewpoint on the subject from 20 years ago, it gives just enough food-for-thought about today’s society.

Side-compliment: I know only film junkies like me may care about this, but there is one scene inside a hotel room that is entertaining in its own right (including a hilarious one-liner upon its conclusion), but after the scene was over I noticed that it was all one take. So major kudos to director F. Gary Gray and cinematographer Matthew Libatique for pulling that off, I loved it.

The biggest flaws that “Straight Outta Compton” have are that of almost every musical biopic, but they’re less glaring here than in other pictures. While the rise and even the fall of the group is a fun ride, we then follow one artist in particular, and that is nowhere near as entertaining as when the band’s all together (think “Jersey Boys” only less love songs, more gangs). Also there are a few plot points that go completely untouched, such as Dr. Dre saying he needs to provide for his girlfriend and baby, and then we never see or hear about them after the 20-minute mark.

I really liked “Straight Outta Compton.” Like kind of a lot. The first half is darn near perfect filmmaking, and while the second half stops to take a few breaths (which is understandable, given the brisk pace of the first act) it never drags until the very last minutes. I think there is something in this movie for almost everyone, and if you don’t go out and see it you are honestly missing out. “Straight Outta Compton” is not just one of the best movies of the summer; it’s one of the best films of the year.

Critics Rating: 8/10