Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (2012)

936full-something-from-nothing -the-art-of-rap-posterStarring Ice-T, Grandmaster Caz, Afrika Bambaataa, Big Daddy Kane, B-Real, Bun B, Chino XL, Chuck D, Common, Dana Dane, DJ Premier, DMC, Doug E. Fresh, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Ice Cube, Immortal Technique, Joe Budden, Kanye West, Kool Keith, Kool Moe Dee, KRS-One, Lord Finesse, Lord Jamar, Marley Marl, MC Lyte, Melle Mel, Nas, Q-Tip, Raekwon, Rakim, Ras Kass, Redman, Royce da 5’9″, Run, Salt, Snoop Dogg, Treach, WC, Xzibit, Yasiin (formerly known as Mos Def)

Directed by Ice-T (with Andy Baybutt)

Expectations: High.

fourstar


During Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, the point is made that rap is not given the same respect as other American musical genres such as jazz and blues, one of the reasons being that people just aren’t listening to it the right way. This is a simple point, but it is a profound one. Something from Nothing isn’t about beats or bling, it’s strictly focused on the art of the rhyme. Rap is perhaps the most misunderstood of musical genres, but as time goes on, its effects and staying power will be undeniable. Like parents who told their children in the early part of the 20th century that jazz was the devil’s music, hip hop has been similarly derided. It’s an inherently more violent and vitriolic music, yes, but it’s a reflection of the streets that it originates from, and this power and honesty is what people respond to. Rap is a musical language like any other genre, and if you’re coming from a place where that type of music doesn’t immediately hit you viscerally, it requires a certain warm-up period to acclimate to it, just like jazz and blues before it.

And like rap itself, this film must also be approached from a specific vantage point. Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap doesn’t seek to chart the genre’s progress from street corners to Madison Square Garden, nor does it seek to illuminate newcomers on key tracks or albums they should pick up. Instead, the film focuses on what makes rap unique and intoxicating: the lyrics. And not just the lyrics, but the craft of writing those lyrics and the power they can possess. This is a movie seeking not only to paint rap as an art, but as a skill, and as such it’s going to play best to people inclined to write songs of their own.

Continue reading Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (2012) →

Trespass (1992)

Starring Bill Paxton, Ice T, William Sadler, Ice Cube, Art Evans, De’voreaux White, Bruce A. Young, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson, T.E. Russell, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Hal Landon Jr.

Directed by Walter Hill

Expectations: As the final film of Ice Fest, I’m excited and a little sad it’s all over.


As soon as Trespass started, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The opening scene seemed designed specifically for me in this moment, as the second line in the film is spoken by Ice Cube, quickly followed by a line from Ice T. The scene is a series of close-ups as Ice T and his associates watch a video of one of their friends being murdered, intercut with the credits of the film. The structure of the scene builds excitement as you start piecing together the story that will play out for your enjoyment, but obviously for me there was another, more pressing agenda. Seeing Ice Cube and Ice T together in one film after eight solo films was too much for me to handle. No matter what the dramatic weight of the scene was, I couldn’t help myself. I had the biggest grin on my face and I was hooting with glee. The two Ices had finally joined forces. “Life is good,” I said to myself. And the best part of this story is that the movie that followed this pure, giddy joy was awesome.

After this opening scene we meet our two main characters, a couple of firefighters played by William Sadler and Bill Paxton. While attempting to save “Ted” Theodore Logan’s dad (Hal Landon Jr. for the non-Bill & Ted’s fans) from a burning building, Paxton acquires a package containing a golden Celtic cross and a newspaper clipping about an old Catholic church robbery. There’s also a map inside, so Paxton shows his buddy and they decide that treasure hunting for a million dollars worth of gold sounds a hell of a lot better than slaving away at the firehouse for the rest of their lives. The only caveat is that the building the map leads them to is deep in the bad part of town, and the situation quickly escalates to violence.

Continue reading Trespass (1992) →

Final Voyage (2000)

Starring Dylan Walsh, Ice T, Erika Eleniak, Claudia Christian, Rick Ducommun, Heidi Schanz, John Koyama, Jonathan Fuller, Stephen Macht, Michael Bailey Smith, Thom Adcox-Hernandez, Beau Billingslea

Directed by Jim Wynorski

Expectations: High after Stealth Fighter.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Final Voyage is the perfect example of a great movie on paper. A Titanic-sized boat filled to the brim with wealthy socialites and a vault full of their unspecified riches. Ice T leading a crack team of thieves onto the boat to steal said riches. A John McClane-esque character guarding former Playboy Playmate Erika Eleniak of Under Siege fame. And Jim Wynorski, director of the incredibly awesome Chopping Mall and last week’s Stealth Fighter. With these elements at its disposal, Final Voyage should be something to see, and it was these very reasons that swayed me to include it over other Ice T films. Unfortunately, it’s kinda middle of the road, mostly composed of poor action and boring dialogue.

Regardless of all the missed potential here, Final Voyage is still pretty enjoyable as a B-Movie thanks to our lead villains Claudia Christian and Ice T. Christian does a great job with the material, making her scenes pop a little more than the rest, while Ice directs the show for most of the movie from the bridge, but you know what that means… he’s not really involved in the action. What. The. FUUUUCK. This is a supreme disappointment for me, especially coming off of Surviving the Game where it was all Ice T icing dudes all the time. Claudia Christian (of Babylon 5 fame) is Ice’s right hand, so she spends most of the movie doing the thug shit that I’d rather see Ice do. I’d also rather see Ice in the John McClane hero role, taking down confident crooks with his self-assured swagger. Oh well, like Stealth Fighter before it, Ice gets a nice villain monologue that somewhat makes up for my disappointment. But don’t get too excited, it’s not nearly on the same level as the previous one, even if a dope slow jam starts playing right as he starts the monologue. The only logical reason for this to happen would be if one of his thugs was carrying around a boombox for this very occasion, and even though I didn’t see that guy, I’m going to assume that’s what happened.

Continue reading Final Voyage (2000) →

Surviving the Game (1994)

Starring Ice T, Rutger Hauer, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey, F. Murray Abraham, John C. McGinley, William McNamara, Jeff Corey

Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson

Expectations: High. If I don’t love this, the pillars of Earth will shake.


In high school, teachers give you a lot of dumb shit to read. Every once in a while, though, there’d be a gem. One of these gems was Richard Connell’s short story, The Most Dangerous Game. I loved it, not just because of the interesting premise, but also because it reminded me of this amazing movie I saw at my grandparent’s house one summer, The Naked Prey, where a dude runs from hunters in Africa with barely any dialogue holding the film together. So when I sat down with Surviving the Game, I expected it to give me a great early ’90s action take on the tale that I love so well. Surviving the Game does not disappoint in the slightest, delivering thrills, excitement and some of the most badass/ridiculous survival shit you’ll ever see in a movie.

Ice T is a homeless man who is at the end of his rope. Without any way out of his current situation and nothing to live for, he just wants it all over and done with. The kindhearted Charles S. Dutton sees a fire within Ice and offers him a job as a survivalist guide, but as you can probably guess, his intentions are more disingenuous than they appear at first glance. Even though we know the storyline and it takes a little while to get to the action-meat of the film, the setup is worthy and necessary. Without it we’d have no connection to Ice’s character in this film, and thankfully this introductory phase flies by thanks to fast-paced writing that is never giving us shit we don’t need. Like a man packing into the backwoods, Surviving the Game only takes exactly what it needs, and when the shit goes down you best believe it knows how to use every motherfuckin’ thing in that pack.

Continue reading Surviving the Game (1994) →

Stealth Fighter (1999)

Stealth Fighter (1999)
AKA Mercenaires, Nighthawk

Starring Ice T, Costas Mandylor, Erika Eleniak, Sarah Dampf, William Sadler, Ernie Hudson, Andrew Divoff, William G. Schilling, John Enos III, Alex Meneses, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Steve J. Hennessy

Directed by Jim Wynorski (as Jay Andrews)

Expectations: Super high. I’m more pumped about this one than any other Ice Fest movie.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


In the first of her two scenes in Stealth Fighter, Erika Eleniak asks her husband, “You want some ice tea?” Her husband and I both responded to the affirmative, but unfortunately Stealth Fighter is a lot lighter on Ice T content than I would have liked. This saddened me, but the footage that remains is absolute gold, and the rest of the movie when Ice T isn’t around is filled with all kinds of explosions and craziness that only legendary B-Movie director Jim Wynorski could pull together so well. Sure, the majority of the action footage is taken from much larger budget films such as Diamonds are Forever and Flight of the Intruder, but the resulting bouillabaisse lends Stealth Fighter an air of being much more than it actually is. There’s just nothing like giant explosions on-screen, even if they are re-used.

Stealth Fighter opens in the best way possible: a slow-motion shot of sweaty hands coming together for an arm wrestling match. The hands belong to Ice T and Costas Mandylor, a couple of hotshot, rival fighter pilots. Before long they get the call to action, but while in flight Ice T goes rogue, kills his co-pilot and downs the plane. The military and all of his squad mates label Ice as K.I.A. and continue on with their lives, but like a spider waiting to strike, Ice steals the F-117 stealth fighter over 10 years after his supposed death. He’s working for a Latin American terrorist who plans to use it to threaten the US President (played by Ernie Hudson!) into releasing his political prisoner friends. The plot is overly convoluted, but it keeps one cardinal rule close to its heart throughout: awesome explosions always equal shit-eating grins.

Continue reading Stealth Fighter (1999) →

New Jack City (1991)

Starring Wesley Snipes, Ice T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Mario Van Peebles, Michael Michele, Bill Nunn, Russell Wong, Bill Cobbs, Christopher Williams, Judd Nelson

Directed by Mario Van Peebles

Expectations: Moderate. I’ve always wanted to see this.


I think if I had seen New Jack City back in 1991, I would have loved it. It’s an interesting tale filled with sex, drugs and hip hop, but coming at it now it seems a little dated. Not that the tale itself is no longer relevant, it’s just so steeped in ’90s hip hop and fashion that it’s impossible not to notice it. For me, this is a good thing as I grew up in and remember the ’90s vividly, but for others it might be a different story entirely. But fuck all that, it’s Ice Fest baby, and we’re ringin’ in the event with a very enjoyable, modern Blaxploitation film.

New Jack City was Ice T’s first major role, and here he plays a reckless cop who’s out to bust the city’s crime lord played by Wesley Snipes. Snipes has taken over the Carter Apartments, creating a fortress to house his crack empire, and it’s up to Ice and his cop buddies to infiltrate it any way they can. New Jack City tells a layered story, more disjointed than the traditional narrative elements might suggest. Much of the story here is told through editing, and the audience is never treated as if they’re stupid. When we inexplicably cut to a wedding attended by Snipes and his troop, the next cut informs us who’s getting married and eventually why the scene is important. It’s hard to tell a compelling story this way, but New Jack City does a relatively good job at it.

Continue reading New Jack City (1991) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages

The Films of Jackie Chan
Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Films
Four Riders (1972)
Best Of/Worst Of Lists
The New Shaolin Boxers (1976)
Cannonball Run II (1984)
Cinderella (1977)
The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971)