Review: Straight Outta Compton (movie)

I wanted to see this when it first came out but somehow never got to it. I haven’t been to the cinema for quite a while, in fact.

A tempting offer for digital purchase allowed me to see this on my tablet on New Year’s Day.

I’m not a hard-core NWA fan, in fact my ears lean much more to rock, but I absolutely loved their debut album Straight Outta Compton. It actually has the attitude of rock and roll but the sonic sensibility of fine pop music. I was too young too listen to their unarguably best album at the time of release, but I knew about them, I was a teenager during the “aftermath”.

With decades having passed (approaching 30yrs), a documentary movie was timely. Also because the white band rock biopic needed a challenge from black guys with attitudez…

Though there’s no real big name cast to the film I was surprised by how decently acted it was. There was a nice balance in that no one cast member stood out too much (maybe Easy-E was more foreground, though) and it told the story well. Embellishments with the truth have been acknowledged, but that’s not exclusive to this part-fictionalised film. NWA don’t claim to be angels but the experiences they faced did not allow them to be so, but when they channelled it into making beefy-beated clever raps they made something amazing that they weren’t able to sustain collectively.

I found it scary how much Ice Cube’s son looked and acted like his father in his role. And it was nice to have an insight into the band making their music; this must be authentic with members of NWA being on-set to advise. One of the villains, NWA’s manager, also comes across as a bit 3D. You’re allowed to judge to what percentage he was crucial to their success and demise.

Perhaps the one dud note is something I question.

Easy-E was said to have died of AIDS and this was dramatised with E coughing a lot, collapsing and ending up in hospital with a diagnosis of HIV and a low T-cell account (said to be a hallmark of AIDS). But as testified by family and friends his disease was rather sudden for AIDS which is marked by many gradual immunity challenges. His partner and child (to be born) tested negative, and his promiscuity did not create an HIV/AIDS cluster (else the media would’ve jumped on it). What happened was that a young black man was given the test against his will based on assumptions of his publicised life. Drearily, Easy-E had a respiratory infection and the film was quite implicit about his drug use as NWA fell apart. If he was treated properly he would have lived. I don’t doubt that.

Overall a good film. You might prefer to just rent it than own it.

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Review: Microsoft Lumia 640

I think I’m cursed.

On Christmas Day morning I was listening to a bit of music on Spotify mobile when my 2yr and 1mth old Nokia Lumia 925 froze, crashed and tried to restart itself several times before going to smartphone heaven (or hell). This was a high-end phone when it came out, but I saved a bit of money by getting it as a Chinese import (I get SIM-free phones because I’m with a primarily SIM-only operator). I know that smartphone life isn’t very high because it’s an immature technology, but I wished I could get one more year out of it. I think I’m cursed because my first Windows Phone died after 2yrs too, the HTC Titan.

For smarter people this usually is a cue to go to Android, Apple, or maybe even BlackBerry. But I’ve been a fan of the tile interface for 4 years now and I’m not in a hurry to leave. Maybe the Lumia 640 I have now will be a bit luckier; maybe it’ll be my last WP if Windows 10 Mobile doesn’t do what Microsoft hopes it does.

When searching for phones I knew I wanted to go midrange now, but I was surprised at how limited the options were. At the time of searching I could only find actively sold phones by Blu and Microsoft (previously Nokia). I’m guessing other manufacturers are reloading for Windows 10, but, anyway, Satya Nadella seems to have trimmed down the Lumia range. Though the price of the 5″ Lumia 640 approaches budget, it’s actually midrange in what they have. It’s several hundred pounds cheaper than the standard Lumia 950 which features retinal recognition, Continnum (connect to a dock and use almost like a PC) and a 20MP pixel camera. These are features I don’t care for and won’t use so I was glad that the best option was cheap.

But it doesn’t feel cheap. Sure it has a plastic body and quite a faceless look but it feels like “hey, did you misprice this?”. I do miss the AMOLED of my old phone for deeper blacks (off pixels), but an IPS LCD gives whiter whites. The 2000mAh battery of my 925 wasn’t lasting long (requiring at least 2 charges per day) but the 2500mAh here is giving me a full day and a half on average, and it’s replaceable!

Even though there’s only 8GB of internal memory, you can pop a micro SD card in (mandatory for sufficient use really), so I have a 32GB card for my apps and photos etc.

At this price range I was also surprised to see the glance screen which allows me to see time and notifications without taking the phone out of standby. This was a feature I’d lose by going to Blu. Though other WPs, like my deceased 925, have capacitive navigation buttons I was absolutely fine with them being on-screen now. You can swipe them out when not needed, so the front of the phone is virtually just screen (Gorilla glass too).

With HD resolution it’s easy on the eyes. Not quite Retina class, but good enough to not really care. There’s no physical camera button here, just power and volume. A headphone socket is on the top and a micro USB port on the bottom (you don’t get a charger with a detachable cable though, for connecting to your computer; I have one from my last phone though).

Upgrading from my old phone was easy. On signing into my Microsoft Account it found a backup of my old phone and restored everything it could. I just needed to adjust the tiles to fit this bigger screen, which is not uncomfortable to use. Though the phone is a bit thicker than my last, it’s certainly not too chunky.

A competing phone, the Lumia 550, has a lower spec but Windows 10 already on it. But I’m happy to wait for that upgrade as I hear it’s still a bit buggy and I’m fine with 8.1 for the time being.

If you’re looking for a midrange WP this is probably the best choice at the moment. Professional and consumer reviews are allied in that you get a lot of feature and quality for the price. It doesn’t feel such a downgrade from the 925; certainly it is an improvement in some areas (not the camera though, though it’s respectable enough here).

The box it comes in is not swish as Nokia used to do (which was aping Apple) but it’s nicely minimalist. Reading the short getting started leaflet is not mandatory as it’s very intuitive.

If you have more dough, you could go for the 640 XL which has a bigger screen and a better camera. But this is the one for me!