Monday, February 29, 2016

“Straight Outta Compton”

  I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast: 

   I have to say that for a cast that was largely new to the acting world, these young men did a spectacular job bringing to life the various personalities that comprised the legendary rap group NWA.

   O’Shea Jackson Jr. is a virtual clone of his father Ice-Cube. It’s been said he put years of work into portraying his father and the time was not wasted.

   Corey Hawkins brought the Hip-Hop media mogul Dr. Dre to life with a great performance that personifies the various struggles and experiences that have molded him into the man he is today.

   Jason Mitchell brought Eazy-E to the big screen and brought him back to life for the precious minutes he was on the silver screen.

   There isn’t much I can say about Paul Giamatti that hasn’t already been said by anyone paying close attention to this great actor. He did a spectacular job portraying Jerry Heller.

The Plot: 
   In the mid 1980’s five young men (six really, but Arabian Prince went his own way very early) came together with aspirations of making music to make some money. They sought to express, through rap, their life experiences and the world they lived in daily.

   After gaining some local success and notoriety, they hooked up with Jerry Heller in hopes of expanding their influence and building on the success they had thus far.

   Not only did they build on their local success, they became one of the biggest names in rap music performing all over the country, bringing their controversial lyrics to sold out venues. They were so influential and inflammatory that the FBI sent them a letter of “cease and desist.”

   Amid all the success and fame, inner turmoil takes root and what follows is a story that will have you glued to the screen as you remind yourself you are watching a re-enactment of true events…making what you see all the more astonishing.

The Verdict: 
   I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and remember NWA very well as an influential force upon my life as their music helped shape me in my youth. There is no doubt this film takes some liberties with the storytelling and likely leaves a large part of their actual history out. In fact…I’m certain of it.

   This film reminds us of the Rodney King case and sadly shows us that thirty years later the police are still conducting themselves in a way that has a large portion of the country questioning if they really are the good guys.

   Of course there is no question that Suge Knight is not a good guy, but the portrayal of him by R. Marcos Taylor is outstanding and memorable. He was truly a menacing and deranged presence.

 Speaking of presence…there was one that was missing. Although Aldis Hodge portrayed MC Ren in the film, I feel like he was never really there, primarily because the film excludes the gravity of his contribution to the success of NWA, especially in the years after Ice-Cube left. In all honesty, Ren was my favorite of the group and always had a memorable part in any song he was in and I loved his solo stuff (including his endeavors with CPO).

   I was happy to see they at least included The D.O.C in the film, but with the snubbing of Ren, this film went from flavoring my tea with four cinnamon sticks….to settling for three and a half, out of five.

Rating 3.5 / 5

Friday, February 26, 2016

Privacy or Security…?

   Once again life is putting forth a serious question we all need to ponder as the answer will shape the future of our lives. The FBI has demanded Apple decrypt an iPhone belonging to one of the attackers involved in the San Bernardino assault. Apple has refused…so now the question is put before us all once again. Do we value our privacy over our security…?

   On one side of this, we are told that breaking into the phone could yield information that may prevent more acts of terrorism. Nobody can really call this a lie because it’s absolutely plausible that the phone is teeming with information that could help take out the bad guys. Surely the privacy of Syed Rizwan Farook (owner of the phone) is of no concern, since he was one of the bad guys. So how can the FBI’s request really be an issue of contention for Apple…?

   Well…on the other side of this Apple has said that to break into this one phone means that they would have to write script that breaks into all iPhones…and once written and released (to the FBI presumably) everyone that owns an iPhone will no longer have any privacy with it. I’m not a programmer of any kind so can’t speak to the truth of their statement. All I know is that’s what they are saying and that they are refusing to comply with a court order to decrypt the phone on that basis.

   There are a few things that jump out at me about all of this…on both sides of the issue.

   I have an iPhone (don’t ask which version, just know people call it an antique) but I don’t keep it updated and don’t have the issues I’ve heard others speak about such as automatic updating…that they sometimes do not want, and often cannot stop. It seems to me that the phones are already compromised…somewhat. 

   I also have trust issues when it comes to the government. I know such sentiments are considered dangerous in these troubled times, but what really makes these times so troubling is that more people don’t have the same issue I do trusting those in charge. The government is made up of people just like you and I that have the same shortcomings shared by the entire human race. How anyone can elevate them up to be beyond reproach affording them complete trust is beyond my understanding.

   Ultimately it comes down to what you value more…your privacy or your security.

   Unlocking an iPhone today could be another step toward the end of privacy tomorrow. Are we that scared of tomorrow that we will opt to do that…? We all should understand by now that fear can be used to compel action. How much of your rights you give up is dependent upon how terrified you are those rights are getting in the way of your security.

   Does anyone really want to live in a world like the one depicted on that new show “Colony?” Are we really so oblivious that we can’t see each freedom and right given up moves us one step closer to such a world…? While we sit here refusing to hold those tasked with administering order and safety accountable, do we really want to give them more power that they can abuse if they so wish to…?

   Are the bad guys really that good…or is our government really that bad…? I have to ask because we all know Big Brother is already watching, but yet still doesn’t seem to see anything. There are cameras everywhere now….literally. On every corner, on the side of buildings, above the doorways of businesses, on every traffic light…there’s a camera. We are under constant surveillance and still…things happen. 

   The whistle has been blown already about our government’s violation of our privacy…and we want to hang the blower for exposing them instead of asking why, with all of this, do they want more…? When will it be enough to stop the bad guys….?

   Do we have to give up all of our privacy to truly be secure….? If that is the case, then the bad guys aren’t the problem, we are…and the government isn’t the solution, we are.

Marinate on that.