“Straight Outta Compton”
Smack in the middle of the ’80s, the group NWA rose from Compton, California. The self-professed reporters of their dangerous and drug-infested hood – they changed the way hip hop sounded forever. This is their story. Well, most of them. Three of the members, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, are given extreme detail and layering. Other members like DJ Yella and MC Ren are dealt sidekick roles. Also given a lot of screen time are the business relationships with manager Jerry Heller and music mogul/bully Suge Knight. A lot has been made of O'Shea Jackson Jr. making his acting debut by portraying his father, Ice Cube, but the whole cast give sturdy performances. The script makes the most of compressing a large timeline, and director F. Gary Gray shows his familiarity with his material. Not only did Gray direct Ice Cube’s 1995 stoner classic “Friday,” he also directed the video for Cube's song, “It Was a Good Day.” There are no attempts to make this into family entertainment. It does oversimplify a very complex story at times, but it’s raw and in your face, just like NWA – worth a watch.
The title of this film says it all. It takes place on a harsh climbing expedition of Mt. Everest, and matters only gets worse as a brutal snow storm blows in. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (“2 Guns”) takes us up from base camp to the peaks of human endurance in this true story of the 1996 disaster that occurred during an adventure climbing tour. Filmmakers tell the tale through an ensemble cast led by Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal. We get scenes with Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Sam Worthington in even smaller doses. The large cast restricts the emotional impact to a glancing effect. The acting shines in spots, but more often than not, the humanity is muted. But let’s be honest – you came for the mountain, and majestic vistas gush over almost every scene, making this barely worth a watch.
Here it is, the team-up you’ve been waiting on – Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. Yeah, these two scream chemistry. If we could only see them in a precarious situation like De Niro playing a 70-year-old widower who becomes an intern for a fashion company run by Hathaway’s character. Now, we’re cooking with gas. Writer/director Nancy Meyers has made a career creating films sprinkled with laughs, overflowing with sappiness, and bent toward socially consciousness. Dating back to her screenplay for “Private Benjamin” in 1980 and laced through her directorial efforts – “What Women Want,” “Something's Gotta Give” and “It's Complicated” – feminism and anti-ageism play heavily into her plots. The same is true here, and surprisingly, over half of the movie is a fun watch. But somewhere along the way, it collapses into an overused, melodramatic plot. De Niro and Hathaway’s performances get pulled right into the muck – pass.