Movie Review: 8 Mile

So here it is, the (Admittedly belated) review of 8 Mile. It’s a natural choice to review this after Get Rich or Die Trying, both being vehicles for popular rap artists to launch (Potentially unnecessary) Acting careers. So is this one as bad, worse or is it (Gasp) actually kind of decent?

Well, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I enjoyed it. 8 Mile is a good movie. It’s hardly fine art and it’s not going to be remembered as the defining moment of a generation, but it’s decently entertaining and very watchable.

One of the crucial differences is the scale of the story on offer. Get Rich went for a preposterously overblown tale of a kid who becomes not only a drug lord, but also a rap star, On top of that, it is stuffed with over-dramaticised attempts at emotional weight. The resulting scenarios and story are implausible to the point of unwatchable.

8 Mile on the other hand focuses on a relatively small story. It’s not about grandiose ambition coming to fruition, it’s not a false-feeling attempt to portray a modern rags-to-riches tale. Instead, we have the real story of rap – the working class, Motor City and, of course, the streets.

And that’s not “the streets” in the eccentric “bullets flying every which way” sense Fitty Cent used it for Get Rich. It means real people. The youth, in the real world, just trying to pass the time in relative comfort and get by on what they can.

When guns appear in 8 Mile, it’s a big deal – they’re a real threat. People don’t just suddenly become drug dealers, or rap stars. They work day in, day out and blow off their steam however they can, and between that and work they spend their time surviving. It’s not the happiest portrayal of working class life, but it’s at least real.

The performances are pretty decent all round, and Eminem’s rapping is at its absolute best here. He was at the top of his game when this movie was made, and it shows in his epic Battle performances and the movie’s theme “Lose Yourself” – in my opinion, hands down his best ever track.

On first blush, Eminem seems rather bored with his part, wandering through the film with a lazy wide-eyed mild disinterest. But on closer inspection, and after watching the movie for a bit longer, this bewilderment seems more like his character’s persona. He seems constantly to be looking over his shoulder and lacks confidence.

He has just that right sense of mild but contained frustration with his lot in life that you would expect from a low-paid metalworker, and by the time he opens the taps and destroys the Leader of the Free World, you’re really rooting for him.

8 Mile is an easy film to recommend if you’re okay with Rap music. Those of you who can’t stan it are well advised to steer clear, but if you’re even merely okay with it, this is a move to check out. Stay the hell away from Get Rich though.

Movie Review: Get Rich or Die Trying

So I’m not going to waste too much of your time here, you probably don’t need me to. This movie is bad. BAD. The acting is terrible, particularly on the part of “Fitty” himself (The scene where he “learns to rap again” is particularly painful).

Worse is the story, with the scenarios it creates positively cringe-worthy at times (An eleven-year-old aiming to whack a drug dealing gangster with a steering wheel lock, an eleven-year-old drug dealer beating up a thug).

I mean, the music’s not bad if you like rap, but this movie seems to think it’s going to do for African-American Gang Culture what The Godfather did for Italian-American Gang Culture. Perhaps that’s why Fifty stayed on such a clearly awful movie (Out of a mis-guided belief it was high art – you know, where you want it so bad you think it’s there).

…Nah, he’s just an idiot.

Anyway, the movie just sucks. It’s painful to watch, filled with implausible characters and situations (That eleven-year-old writes an overtly sexual love rap to his sweetheart which is such an abomination to the ears her stepfather kicks her out).

And when it’s not implausible, it’s over-long, predictable or formulaic. Several times one of us was heard to say “lemme guess: X happens” only for X to occur moments later.

As for the over-long remark? It becomes pretty obvious exactly what events are going to play out and why as the movie draws to its (First) climax. Despite this, the movie makes you wait easily 10 minutes more than it needed to actually get to those events, instead tacking in some out of place emotional crap which does not achieve its (Presumably) intended goal of lifting the film’s tone in any way.

It’s a trainwreck. Next time, I’m reviewing 8 Mile. let’s see if the “Shameless Rapper Vehicle” formula for movies is inherently bad or if this one’s just bad on its own.

Samsung NC10 Review

Well, I finally received my Samsung NC10 last Thursday. Unfortunately, I was also in the middle of being mad sick so it was hard to enjoy it to the full. But I got better and I’ve been playing around with it for over a week now, so it’s time to do the review.

First up, I’ll do this in-depth text review. Later, I’ll be doing a video review for your viewing pleasure. Possibly Sunday. I dunno, I might be busy. Whatever, it’s not important. Onto the review. The NC10 is a 10.2” Intel Atom-based Netbook. Specs-wise, it’s pretty typical of the class. 1.6GHz Atom, 1GB of RAM and all the usual ports.

Unusual is the hard drive. A spacious 160GB model gives me lots of room for games, a definite plus. The battery is a nice big 6-cell unit and either by witchcraft or fine engineering, it runs longer than other netbooks sporting same capacity batteries in my experience – such as the Eee PC 1000 (Which has flash storage incidentally).

The keyboard is the next standout feature. It’s been described as the best netbook keyboard ever and I’m inclined to agree. Typing on the Samsung is bliss, the keys are a nice size and the feel of them – both the texture and the action – is fantastic.

The touchpad is nothing to get excited about. It’s functional and it sports multi-touch gestures like pinch to zoom but I disabled the scroll regions – I just find it makes the touchpad too small, especially since I’m the kind of guy who likes to sue the whole are for my mousing around.

The boot time is perfectly adequate. I think it takes a little longer than my old Eee, but not long enough that it bothers me. It’s still a might fast boot, and that’s Windows XP we’re talking about! Fast booting XP used to be crazy talk!

Stylistically, the Samsung’s a clear winner. It just has an undeniable sleekness and the nifty glowing Power button on the side at the hinge is awesome. I also like the SD card slot’s blocker – a nice touch.

The system runs at a nice temperature, never too hot to sit on your lap comfortably. Air is blown out the left, but despite this and the presence of a hard drive, I’m pretty sure that the Samsung is never as loud as the Eee PC 701 was (When the latter had its fan running). That’s odd, but also awesome.

All in all, I love the new system. With it’s larger screen the internet now displays perfectly. The Windows operating system has allowed me to get back into (Admittedly) classic PC gaming and the weight remains sufficiently low that I can carry it in one hand by a corner.

The Samsung NC10 is the pinnacle of netbooks and, at £299.99 delivered, it’s value is incredible. I can honestly say I recommend this model to anyone considering a netbook purchase and it’s easily going to tide me over until I buy my MacBook Pro in late 2010.

Son of Rambugh

So we went to the cinema earlier on a Media Studies Trip. British Cinema was the name of the day (Indeed, that was the theme of the festival they were running…I think anyway, it wasn’t exactly heavily publicised).

The movie? Son of Rambow. Wow. I would never have imagined a film with such an off the wall, bonkers plot could be so hopelessly formulaic. Writer-Director Garth Jennings seemed to have a passable idea, but he singularly failed to deliver on it, never mind turn it into something worthwhile.

Great directors can take a serviceable plot and make a classic (Examples might include Jaws for Spielberg, Star Wars for Lucas and Sleepy Hollow for Burton). Okay directors can take serviceable ideas and make acceptable movies (The Superman Series springs to mind). Awful directors do this.

So apart from being formulaic what’s wrong with Rambow? Well, the whole exercise is simplistic. Jennings seems content to point his camera with all the eye for framing and excitement of his characters – in whose defense, are children. Jennings takes no risks and makes liberal use of filming cliches. It’s pretty bleak.

It doesn’t help that the whole thing seems kind of pointless. It feels like Mr. Jennings is trying to make a touchy-feely piece. But when almost all his characters are male and most of the few whoa re not are either contemptible or asexual, the whole thing comes across as rather odd. Not even gay, which would be somewhat interesting. It’s a movie about friendship…But none of the friendships make much sense.

Why’s that? Leaps of logic. Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban suffered similar problems, but was at least well made to make up for it. Here, the way the lead is rather blindly lead by his eventual friend makes little sense.

Less sensical is the fact that he befriends the guy in the first place. The two are utterly incompatible. Well, actually, they only start that way. Lee, who starts out as a jerk and a bully, suddenly becomes a victim and a sympathetic figure.

It’s a device used throughout the film – even paradoxically. For example we learn that Lee’s brother is nasty to him. But then we learn that Lee’s mother causes him no end of problems. So that’s two instances of passing the blame.

Jennings manages to paint about 7 characters as villains. Of them, 3 are redeemed with deus ex machina (This is particularly true of the out-of-place French boy Didier – and if you want to know why he’s out of place, it’s not cos he’s French, it’s because he’s a product of the modern era, not the film’s setting). Another 2 villains are minor characters with maybe 4 speaking parts between them.

Ultimately, by the end of the movie, you’ve seen everything coming from the first few moments of exposure to the various characters. It’s a snooze-fest and it doesn’t help that few of the characters are endearing. You like them well enough in some ways, but you won’t come out caring what happens to them after the film.

Nor will you care much about anything the film says or does. Notably, some of the messages the film tries to send are debunkings of old-fashioned ideals which seem ridiculous even by being mentioned, which makes the whole movie seem a trifle pointless.

Son of Rambow has some pretty good jokes in it, but ultimately it falls flat.