Saturday, November 25, 2017
Things To Do

Demetrius Shipp Jr. uncannily channels Tupac, but 'All Eyez on Me' is otherwise flat

RECOMMENDED READING


Rapper Tupac Shakur was a revolutionary, a controversial, brilliant artist cut down in his prime, who only became more iconic after his death. The son of a Black Panther, a high school chum of Jada Pinkett Smith, and a vanguard of West Coast gangsta rap, Shakur endured, and produced, far more in his 25 years than most ever do, and his life story has been overdue for the biopic treatment, especially in light of the films about his rivals and contemporaries such as Notorious and Straight Outta Compton. After a long gestation, All Eyez on Me arrives in theaters, directed by Benny Boom, but this disorganized biopic isn't quite worthy of its subject's remarkable life.

Playing the part of Shakur is newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr., who looks eerily like the rapper, channeling Shakur in a performance where actor and real person ultimately meld together. Especially once he gets into his performance flow, the physical comparison is uncanny, in his bobbing, lanky-limbed dance movements and head-swiveling delivery. In recreations of television interviews, Shipp nails the energetic, motor-mouthed cadence of the outspoken Shakur.

But the film surrounding Shipp is rough going. All Eyez on Me gets off to a very bumpy start, as it skitters wildly around from life event to life event, dates, locations, and story-framing devices pummeling the screen. We're given a flash forward to Tupac onstage in front of adoring fans, then a prison interview that serves to guide us through his childhood and early career. It's just lazy screenwriting to plop in an interviewer to interject names and places rather than establishing these facts in the script, and the seams are painfully obvious.

The first 45 minutes of All Eyez on Me never gels, with bizarre scene transitions and characters that are scarcely introduced. It feels like much was left on the editing room floor, though even more could have gone. The film only finds its legs in the second half, as Tupac becomes caught up in drama with Death Row Records, Suge Knight and the East Coast/West Coast rap beef.

The problem with biopics is knowing what — and what not — to include, and All Eyez on Me writers Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian erred on the side of more is more, rather than selectively choosing the events that would best express the life story of the film's character.

Director Boom never met a dramatic moment that he didn't want to milk the life out of with an on-the-nose gospel song, or a swirling steadi-cam movement circling Tupac as he comes to a revelation. Subtlety is not his strong suit, and he seems to have been telling his actors "bigger!" all the time. Danai Gurira, playing Shakur's mother Afeni, reaches especially operatic heights.

Tupac was a complicated, nuanced person. Raised by a militant African-American freedom fighter, he recited Shakespeare in art school, and witnessed the ravages of drugs on his family. He found a voice in gangsta rap, but he was more than just "thug life," and saw his music as a message of black liberation. That complexity is flattened out, and comes off as inconsistent in this film. While it's a delight to watch Shipp channel Tupac, ultimately, the imitation doesn't come close to the real thing.

Comments

TODAYAutosF1: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying8 a.m.NBCSNCollege basketballSavannah State at Texas Tech3 p.m.FSFNorth Florida at Miami4 p.m.Fox SunEmerald Coast Classic, final: TCU vs. St. Bonaventure-Maryland winner7 p.m.CBSSNBoston College at Provid...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer knows he’s overdue for a trip to Florida. For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area....
Updated: 10 hours ago
Top things to do this weekend: Lindsey Stirling, Faizon Love, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live

Top things to do this weekend: Lindsey Stirling, Faizon Love, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live

PULLING STRINGS: Lindsey StirlingDubstep violist Lindsey Stirling shot to fame as a quarter-finalist on America’s Got Talent in 2010 and she has been rocking the spangles on Dancing With the Stars this season as the last woman left . But on Friday yo...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/24/17
5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

1. Gem, Jewelry and Bead Show and Sale: Check out these rocks when more than 50 dealers from around the United States sell crystals, minerals, beads, gems and jewelry. $5. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through ...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/24/17
4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

Perhaps you have relatives in town for the weekend, and you’re running out of ways to entertain them. Or maybe you’re wondering what to do with your long weekend. There’s a perfect solution for either scenario: Go see some art. There’s plenty on vi...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/24/17
What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

NOW IN THEATERS: COCO Disney-Pixar’s animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn’t as good ...
Published: 11/22/17
Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

This Black Friday weekend, you can head to your local shopping center and fight traffic to get the perfect gift. Or you can stay at home by your computer and give the gift of entertainment.A handful of Tampa Bay concert venues are offering ticket dea...
Published: 11/22/17
This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

SWINGIN’ AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE: Brian Setzer OrchestraWhen you spend 13 straight Thanksgivings on the road, you build some traditions with your crew. "We get a big ballroom," said Brian Setzer. "I don’t know how many turkeys we go through, but ev...
Published: 11/22/17
Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that aren’t Thanksgiving

Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that aren’t Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day!Or is it? Sometimes life just doesn’t come together at 2 p.m. on Thursday.Circumstances mean it’s not always possible to sit around the table on Thanksgiving, a family in a Publix ad smiling over a glistening bird. Maybe family is ou...
Published: 11/22/17
Watch the unseen footage in ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ trailer

Watch the unseen footage in ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ trailer

Can we all agree that John Hughes' Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the ultimate Thanksgiving movie? (And maybe actually his best movie of the '80s? Think about it.) And though I'm sure many of us will be watching it again this holiday weekend, when...
Published: 11/22/17