Monday, June 19, 2017

Reserved Seating: All Eyez on Me / 47 Meters Down

by Adam Riske
Even though you’re fed up, shark, you gotta keep your head up.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske. Rob is off for the next two weeks, but to make up for his absence I’ll be reviewing two new releases this week: All Eyez on Me and 47 Meters Down.

47 Meters Down is the latest summer shark movie in what might be an emerging trend with the recent success of 2016’s The Shallows. I would be fine with that. Nothing says summer like a shark movie. This one tells the story of two sisters (Claire Holt and Mandy Moore) who go into a shark cage for some quick vacation thrills and get much more than they bargained for. The boat wench breaks and the cage plummets to the ocean floor in shark infested waters. Running short on air and surrounded by predators, the sisters have to fight for survival. 47 Meters Down had an interesting path to the screen, as it was originally titled In the Deep and slated for a DVD/VOD release last year, but the studio thought they had something and waited a year to give it a theatrical release. I think it was a good idea, because 47 Meters Down is a really strong entry into the shark movie subgenre.
The film starts off amiably enough, even though the characters are stock and underwritten. I don’t know Claire Holt from anything (I guess she’s best known from TV’s The Vampire Diaries), but she seems nice and Mandy Moore has built a career on radiating sweetness so I wanted them to survive this ordeal right from the beginning. Fitting of its B-movie roots (the movie has scant intent of deeper meaning), Holt and Moore are in the water pretty quickly and it’s just them for the bulk of the movie. Thankfully, we’re with the women in this scary situation without cutting back to the people on the boat above water, who are trying to save them until very late in the film (we hear Matthew Modine via radio but don’t see him). This allows the tension to build without respite. The movie throws enough new obstacles at the characters and the audience so that the brief sub-90 minutes runtime goes by rather quickly. The film is operating on a low budget, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice as the shark effects are effective and realistic looking enough (likely because most of the time you see them underwater and not jumping out of the water). Being rated PG-13, 47 Meters Down skimps on shark gore, so if you’re looking for something more extreme you might want to try a different movie.

I was enjoying 47 Meters Down for the first two acts, but what I think will keep it in my memory is the third act. It doesn’t offer the (wo)man vs. shark thrills of The Shallows or Jaws, but instead opts for something smaller, less thrilling and more muted. I found the decision refreshing and emotional but I can understand how it might polarize others. I’m voting Mark Ahn for 47 Meters Down.

Our next movie is the long-gestating biopic on the life and death of rapper Tupac Shakur, titled All Eyez on Me. While it’s definitely not the definitive Tupac movie (that would be the incredible 2003 documentary Tupac: Resurrection), I found All Eyez on Me to be much more entertaining than a majority of the reviews I’ve been reading would suggest. Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Tupac Shakur (he’s my favorite rap artist), so my appreciation of All Eyez on Me does have a certain level of “I liked it because it was about Tupac,” similar to how some might like a Transformers movie just because it has robots fighting or you like a wonky pop documentary because you enjoy the subject matter.
Is All Eyez on Me a “good” movie? Not really, and not by 2017 standards. It has a lot of problems that could be easily spotted by a casual moviegoer – some (not all) of the acting is bad, the screenplay has many on-the-nose lines of dialogue and platitudes, the sets look thrifty (especially in the concert moments) and the re-enactments of film scenes (e.g. Juice) and music videos featuring Tupac are laughable. All Eyez on Me doesn’t have the professional sheen of Straight Outta Compton and it covers so many events that most only get cursory treatment. And yet, I was fascinated by how the movie played. It feels like a throwback biopic from the 1950s in its earnestness. I never would have considered a Tupac biopic to have that vibe, but it’s oddly effective. All Eyez on Me is certainly guilty of “and then this happened,” but that somehow works for this man’s life. It makes you sit back and marvel and how much shit this guy saw, went through and participated in during his short 25-year life before being murdered in September of 1996. I still would like to get a Tupac biopic from a seasoned auteur later on down the road (there’s talk of Steve McQueen making a documentary about him, but what’s the point when Tupac: Resurrection exists, with Tupac even telling his story in his own words?) but this will do for now. A man who led a life as outsized as he did deserves an epic treatment from an Ava DuVernay, Ezra Edelman or Spike Lee, three filmmakers who could dive into why Tupac was so influential to both black culture and popular culture while also examining his more problematic attributes.

Very impressive is Demetrius Shipp Jr. in, amazingly, his first acting credit. He looks the part entirely and his performance is committed and attention grabbing. After a while, you forget it’s the actor and just think it’s Tupac and that’s about the biggest compliment you can give a performer playing a real-life figure, especially one who was so much in the public eye. He is done no favors by director Benny Boom, who puts Shipp Jr. in the unfortunate situation of having to lip-sync Tupac songs in far too many scenes, which causes a distraction and robs them of some energy. Also good is Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett, Tupac’s real-life friend. She does more of an impersonation, but it’s a damn good one and she and Shipp Jr. have strong chemistry. It’s sad to hear that most of their scenes in the movie are bullshit (according to Jada Pinkett-Smith) but I’m a filmgoer, not a historian. Unsurprisingly, the movie also works because it features a lot of Tupac music, which is a pleasure for a fan to hear in a theater with great sound. I’m voting Mark Ahn for All Eyez on Me. It’s an interesting, problematic film about a fascinating, flawed man.
To close out, here are my ten favorite 2Pac songs. My proclivity is towards the ones that are positive, sensitive, joyful and/or fun. He had many other songs that weren’t and make me wince, but the list of ones I like could easily number in the dozens. He recorded over 700 songs by the age of 25. That’s unreal. Go White Sox!

10. “Until the End of Time”
9. “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”
8. “Runnin’ (Dying to Live)”
7. “Dear Mama”
6. “California Love”
5. “To Live & Die in L.A.”
4. “Do For Love”
3. “How Do U Want It?”
2. “Keep Ya Head Up”
1. “I Get Around”

I’ll be back next week with a new review (Transformers Cinco?). Until then, these seats are reserved.

32 comments:

  1. I know I'm one of those who was able to catch 47MD during its (I think) day-long VOD run last July; I guess my executive instincts to keep it VOD would've been wrong, seeing that it did even better than its distributor (Entertainment Studios?!!?!?!!! WTF?) was expecting. A "C" Cinemascore rating, though... ouch! I think that's the first time I've seen one of those get handed out.

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    1. I'm happy they released it in theaters simply because it looks like a theatrical movie. A lot of VOD movies don't have that quality and I think 47 Meters Down does. Stupid reason but it makes sense in my head.

      Entertainment Studios is hilarious. I laughed when I saw the production company title card. I also laughed that the director's name was above the title like he's already John Carpenter.

      C Cinemascore happens. I know It Comes At Night got a D. I think Cinemascore is more a measure of if a movie delivered what an audience expected. Lower scores happen when these audiences aren't fed what they want in their head.

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  2. My fave line in All Eyez on Me, like legit hard line that I and the audience "ohhhhed" at was: "N*gga get out my muthafucka face before I bite your nose off" WOW.

    Also what I LOVED about 47 Meters Down's ending was how long he waited to pull the rug out from under us. I expected it at one point, then accepted it was actually playing it straight, then boom! I almost wanted to applaud.

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  3. I find myself slightly disappointed that this article does not also contain a list of Adam Riske's Top Ten favorite Mandy Moore songs.

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    1. The last thing I want to do is disappoint you. I'm listening to Mandy Moore's Greatest Hits right now and will provide a top 10 in a few hours.

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    2. Favorite Mandy Moore songs

      10. "When Will My Life Begin"
      9. "So Real"
      8. "Only Hope"
      7. "Top of the World"
      6. "Can We Still Be Friends" (Cover)
      5. "I Feel the Earth Move" (Cover)
      4. "Candy"
      3. "I Wanna Be With You"
      2. "Secret Love"
      1. "In My Pocket"

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    3. This is the greatest comment in FTM history.

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    4. No mention of "Cry" from A Walk To Remember?!... You're a MONSTER, Riske!!!

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    5. Mookie, put down the trash can! I missed "Cry" somehow (it's not on her greatest hits album). It's fine but nothing Moore.

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  4. I honestly think I'll end up catching up on All Eyez on Me as a rental, but any movie that has the potential to bring Tupac's genius music back into the public consciousness is okay by me. And at least it sounds like Demetrius Shipp, Jr. does the best he can with what he has to work with.

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    1. Yeah the movie acts as a good introduction for people too young to remember his music when he was alive. Shipp Jr. rules. I want him to be in a Fast and Furious movie.

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  5. Nice work Riske, i will have to check out Resurection too, I am always up for some Hip Hop stuff, I was always into Ice T and Ice cube mixed with a bit of Public enemy and Snoop and Dre, N.W.A,my favourite lesser known rapper is Paris, political hip hop, did you ever listen to Paris?

    Here's a top Paris track, its got a long intro but the payoff is worth it, its called Bushkilla! I think the name says it all, real hardcore hiphop, listen to it loud, I would interested in your thoughts

    https://youtu.be/gLPX7VHcnes

    My favourite Tupac track is Dear Mama,because the first time I heard it I cried, strong words, softly spoken

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    1. I never heard Paris before. Checked out that song and it's really good! I'll have to listen to more of his stuff. It's very New Jack City-ish.

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    2. Gotta go further back with Paris, my friends. Check out "The Devil Made Me Do It" (his first single from the same titled album) and "The Hate that Hate Made" (1990). I'll keep my thoughts on 2Pac to myself. #mostoverratedofalltime?

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    3. So Chaybee got no love 2Pac, Riske and Reserved Seating?

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    4. Nothing but love for you and the column, my man!

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    5. I know jk. Why do you think he's the most overrated? Genuinely curious.

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    6. Oh man, to explain why would take time. It would take a long trip and history lesson through the annals of Hip Hop history. One would have to have the right frame of reference with MC's to understand. One would have to have lived deep through Hip Hop during 2Pac coming into the mainstream, him publicly dissing legendary MC's (look it up, his interviews are all over the place), him saying he could master every MC's style and all he would have to do is learn "the 5 boroughs" and him and Suge saying they were going to take over NY. That's just the beginning. Remember, I'm an old Hip Hop head so I take this shit seriously, haha. As an older man now, I realize how polarizing he is as he is a walking contradiction (much like all of us) and, of course, I didn't know him, so I can only base these things on his interviews and his music. Lyrically and flow only, I think he's way overrated. I still don't quite understand what he had that people responded to so much. Sorry, you asked :)

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    7. Let me add though that I have friends that I grew up with listening to Hip Hop that like him, so there's definitely a taste thing here too.

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    8. I got into rap probably around 92-93 so I responded to 2Pac first through some of his greatest hits. I was young so it was mostly about liking the sound of his songs than the content of the lyrics. I didn't pay attention to the bs surrounding him until after his death. There's a lot about him that I don't like but I think his history is so dramatic that it makes him a fascinating figure. I also think there's a little bit of the wanting to "save him" thing happening with me. I don't want him to be bad because he made music I reponded to instincually.

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    9. Interesting stuff, I always liked Tupac but I was more excited by Ice T and Cube, but then when I found Paris I found him less mainstream and more real, The Devil made me do it is amazing as is Sleeping with the Enemy, it's always great to find new old music you missed out on, Paris was under the radar for most people

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    10. Riske - No dount, I totally understand. It's a frame of reference thing. I got into Hip Hop at a very young age and while it was still new ('82-'83) and immersed myself in it. I lived it and made it for years. 93-94 is when it started getting mainstream and flooded with bullshit (thank god for Illmatic though), that was the beginning of the change in culture and things have been downhill ever since.

      Dennis - King Tee was probably my favorite West Coast MC. Digital Underground's "Sex Packets" was light years ahead of it's time so 2Pac at least has that (though he didn't do much, that was Shock-G's show, who actually produced "I Get Around", Riske's fav 2Pac song and mine as well.)

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    11. Take me to school, Chaybee. Who are your top 5 rappers? Hoping for some new-to-me discoveries.

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    12. Oh man. You know, much like movies this is a really hard question to answer. It changes from time to time and MY favorite is different than who I think are the best 5 MC's of all time. There's also the top underrated and unappreciated that people forget to talk about e.g. Barshaw, Chubb Rock, Wise Intelligent (Poor Righteous Teachers) and for West Coast fans, The D.O.C (who was my favorite MC on Ruthless Records, is also my favorite Dre production. He had a classic Debut and then had an accident which affected his vocal chords.) There's also eras (era) to keep in mind. How could I compare the Funky 4+1 or The Treacherous Three to MC's as the artform evolved?

      I'll give you this - in no order, here are five MC's that I love without getting too obscure.

      Sadat X (Brand Nubian) The voice and delivery are unlike any other.

      Posdunos (De La Soul) (I often credit him as my favorite MC cause much like movies a la "Die Hard" I just had to pick one.

      Jeru The Damaja (first two albums are classics with maybe the best DJ Premier production ever)

      Pharaohe Monch (Organized Konfusion) probably one of the illest with wordplay.

      Special Ed - People don't realize what he was doing at 16 years old with "Youngest In Charge".

      Picks for the best of the best always vary but KRS-1, Rakim, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, Slick Rick, Nas, BIG, are all acceptable.

      If you want to dig deep, check out Hard Knocks, Diamond Shell (Biz's cousin), Grandaddy I.U., Positively Black, Divine Force, Black Rock and Ron, and Barsha to name a few. The well goes deep, my friend. Maybe I'll send you a song a day on facebook :)


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    13. Sadat X is really good, but I was always partial to Grand Puba.

      Jeru! He was very very good, and having DJ Premier supplying the beat never hurts.

      Pharaohe Monch as part of Organized Konfusion is the best. I didn't really get into his solo stuff after OK.

      I have a soft spot for Kool Keith too.

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  6. Oh shit yeah, Its a big daddy thing is one of my all time favourite albums

    Two you did not mention are Hijack The Terrorist group, The horns of Jerico, holy shit I love it

    And Tim Dog, Penicillin on Wax, that Fuck Compton song about NWA was some hardcore shit and the Snoop diss song called Bitch with a perm, damn Tim Dog said exactly what he wanted

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    1. UK Hip Hop doesn't count. Nah, I'm just kidding :) I always liked Derek B. Hijack was hijacking the Bomb Squad sound just like a lot of groups at the time so I don't fault them for that. Tim Dog was just a crazy dude. Not a good MC by any means, but, yeah, he just didn't give a fuck.

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  7. If you think 2Pac is overrated then you aren't listening hard enough;)
    Here's a few rappers that you might not have heard of that I love:

    Tonedeff
    Crooked I
    Young Zee
    Big L
    Aesop Rock

    The amount of songs 2Pac accumulated during his life is staggering. Disc 2 of All Eyez On Me is pretty much perfect. His flow was so effortless you almost can easily miss how intricate some of his lyrics were. Music is about as subjective as it gets but to me 2Pac is up near the top.
    Also, RIP Prodigy
    #MobbDeep4ever



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    1. I still got love for you, and Brenda's baby too.

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    2. Only true lovers will get the Brendas baby reference

      Love it

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  8. I'm pretty sure I rented In The Deep sometime last summer/autumn. That's weird that's it's popping up in theatres under a new name.

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