Nas: Time Is Illmatic (Amazon Prime)
Nas's 1994 album Illmatic never sold quite as well as some of its contemporaries but to those who discovered it, it remains a milestone; perhaps the greatest hip-hop album ever recorded. On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, former graffiti artist and graphic designer One9 directs this brief (75 minutes), but informative and touching documentary. It traces the life of Nasir Jones, growing up with feuding parents in the Queensbridge housing projects, where some of his friends never made it out. Remarkably, he recorded the album at the tender age of 20.
Nas openly addresses his life and music, with each of the album's various producers (Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Large Professor, L.E.S., Pete Rock) discussing individual tracks. The remarkable thing is that the interviewees, including Nas himself, seem to downplay their input. There's no bragging or egotism--the opposite of Kanye West--as if these amazing songs just happened on their own. Alicia Keys and Busta Rhymes are also interviewed.
Cry-Baby (1990) was Johnny Depp's first movie after his cheesy, hit TV series 21 Jump Street. With it, he proved that he was not interested in being any kind of ordinary movie star. (He showed his bravery, but his acting chops would have to wait until later.) The subversive director John Waters, once known for underground grossouts like Pink Flamingos, was working with his biggest budget to date, but never sells out. He brings a sense of cheerful naughtiness to his 1950s rock n' roll story of "Cry-Baby" (Depp), a leather jacket-wearing rebel who, from time to time, sheds a single tear. He falls in love with a cute girl, Allison (Amy Locane), from a rival gang, causing lots of trouble, and lots of singing.
The movie was also notable for the first non-porn role for Traci Lords, as well as supporting turns by Susan Tyrell (an Oscar nominee for Fat City ), Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake (also in Waters' Hairspray). Polly Bergen, Willem Dafoe, Patty Hearst, and Mink Stole also make cameo appearances.
Get Hard (Vudu)
A sizable hit for both Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, Get Hard (2015) is most notable for its teaming of the two stars. With nearly a foot of difference in their heights, Ferrell is a big man who acts small, and Hart is a small man who acts big. It could have been a gimmick, but remarkably, the two form an easy onscreen bond, seeming as if they are genuinely enjoying each other's company. After that, the plot has a tendency to get somewhat soft, but it still offers plenty of laughs.
Ferrell plays James King, a wealthy businessman--newly promoted and about to marry the CEO's daughter--when he is arrested for fraud and embezzlement and given hard time. With 30 days to prepare, he hires car detailer Darnell Lewis (Hart) to teach him how to handle prison. The catch is that Darnell is a good guy who has never been to prison himself, but he's still a fast talker and has plenty to teach, and he can always call on his real-deal gangster cousin Russell (rapper T.I.). Craig T. Nelson and Alison Brie co-star. Screenwriter Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder, Men in Black 3) makes his feature directorial debut.
Sign up for MIS Asia eNewsletters.