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Love him or hate him, the white rapper Marshal Mathers - or Eminem as we know him really - is here to stay. Multi-platinum albums and chart topping success have lead to a new direction; film. I am a pretty big Eminem fan musically, however that is what he is; a rapper, a musician, a songwriter but, as far as I knew, not an actor. 8 Mile did well at the cinemas primarily because of his fans wanting to see the star in action and now the film has made it’s way onto DVD, is it time for you to “Lose Yourself” in a masterpiece or is it time for Eminem to “Say Goodbye Hollywood”?

8 Mile

Movie
Eminem plays Jimmy Smith Jr. or Rabbit as he is also known, a white man in a black mans world. However this is no Vanilla Ice. This kid can bust a lyric with the best of them. We join the film at a low point in his life. He has split up with his girlfriend and given her his car and therefore he has to move back in with his mum in a trailer park. Rabbit’s mother has issues. Enter Kim Basinger as Stephanie - still far too pretty and young looking for me to believe she is old enough to have a son Rabbit’s age. She doesn’t work and is dating someone not much older than Rabbit himself. To top it all off her boyfriend Greg (Michael Shannon), does not work either. After being involved in a car accident he is still waiting for his compensation and it is this that keeps them together – her waiting for the money so they can be together and financially sound and him so that he can basically leave and get his own place (unbeknown to Stephanie however).

Rabbit has several close friends who make up the “3 1/3 crew” and they dream of not only getting a record deal, but what they are going to spend the money on when this imaginary deal materialises. This gang is essentially led by Rabbit and Future. Future is not only a rapper, but the host of the battles at the Shelter which are rapping fights. No violence is used, just improvised words “dissing” the opponent. This competition is staged in pairs with 45 seconds each until the final winner faces the reining champion. There is no prize money or trophy, just the respect and status being a winner here means. Rabbit is really nervous – it’s his first battle. He vomits in the toilet and then is ready to go on stage. When it his turn to rap, he freezes:

<table border=0><tr><td>Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
One moment - Would you capture it or just let it slip?

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
He's choking, how everybody's joking now
The clocks run out, times up, over, bloah!
</td></tr></table>

So you see, the theme song from the film penned by Eminem tells the film’s story. However just listening to what is in my opinion an excellent track won’t tell you everything you need to know about the film. He may have split up with his girlfriend but that’s when he meets Alex played by the sultry Brittnay Murphy. There’s a mutual attraction between them and after a couple of chance meetings they get together. Surely Rabbit’s life is starting to look up now as one of his friends who have connections is going to hook him up with some free studio time to record a demo for a producer. All is not what as it seems and again things take a turn for the worse.

8 Mile

So, how did our musician friend do in this film? Well I thought he did very well indeed. That’s not to say he is a good actor. He is obviously at ease being in front of a camera and performing and his lines are delivered with conviction but the character he plays is almost himself. The film is allegedly semi-autobiographical and so I think it really is unfair to judge him here. He obviously is not a bad actor and his experience making music videos and performing in front of thousands of people really help here but I can’t help thinking that if he was in a different film, could he still come off as convincing as he did here? Perhaps time will tell. I couldn’t accept Kim Basinger as his “mom”. Not that she played the part badly or anything, she just doesn’t look old enough, or rather Eminem looks too old. As for the rest of the cast, I am pleased to say they all did their jobs well including Lilly (Rabbit’s daughter) who must only be about six years old. Brittany Murphy and Mekhi Phifer (Future) play their roles enthusiastically and with finesse. The film was directed by Curtis Hanson who has not directed many films when compared to others in the profession of his age but he did direct the highly acclaimed L.A. Confidential and Wonder Boys as well as the forgettable Hand That Rocks The Cradle and The River Wild. A use of colour filters and very dark scenes as appears to be the current trend of movies gives the production a gritty feel and helps with the premise that we are entering the underground rap scene.

The film itself was good. The dialogue was good especially in the contests the characters go through. Imagine all the eighties and early nineties martial arts or hero type films you have seen like Blood Sport, Kickboxer, Top Gun or even Predator and then take out the fighting and add rapping. It’s all about someone who gets shot down and then rises to prove he is the best. An old cliché but it is what people like to see and this is a brand new way of executing that plot. The adrenaline isn’t quite there as it was with, say, Rocky but it is a different concept this time. One of my main (if only) disappointments with this film was that the song Lose Yourself is not actually featured in the film. There is a tiny scene where Rabbit is writing down some new lyrics and these are from Lose Yourself so we are treated to a version in which every other line is said however I wanted the finale to involve this track. For me it was a shame it didn’t however the films ending was still pretty good. The Sweet Home Alabama scene is excellent. That should be a b-side on the next single.

8 Mile

Video
Even in daytime this film is very dark with vastly muted colours. As I mentioned, it follows in the trend of colour filters that other recent films have started using more often to give the film a certain gritty look or feel. As with all recent films, the picture is sharp and has no artefacts present. Definition is also excellent when required keeping the attention on particular goings on such as the rap battle. Presented in 2.35:1 and obviously anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs the print is sharp and true. I did not see any aliasing problems and even a scene in a club with a lot of red lighting, displayed no signs of colour bleeding.

Sound
I had a big grin on my face when I saw three little letters on the back of the cover – DTS. This is a music film with not only the onscreen music but a strong soundtrack featuring heavily throughout the film. There were times when I would have thought that the music would have been in surround when it wasn’t. That’s not to say it is always like that – for the most part the surround music is excellent and the bass levels are so high I had to turn my sub woofer down to a level which didn’t have my neighbours from two doors down complaining. In this film everything is happening or nothing is happening – there isn’t much in between. It is a full on musical assault or basic dialogue. I really enjoyed the audio on this disc even if at times it is a little unrealistic (see the scene with Rabbit in which he inherits an old banger from his mother and even though all it has is a little tape deck, the sound is phenomenal).

8 Mile

Extras
The Making of 8 Mile is a featurette running in at 10 minutes, which covers why the film is called 8 Mile. It is slightly edited for TV in that the clips of the film have had the swearing removed. Mini interviews with Eminem, the director and the other cast members feature and because this isn’t just another action flick I found this an interesting piece. It’s a different film and that makes the behind the scenes shots genuinely attention grabbing.

The Rap Battles section sees director Curtis Hanson explaining what a rap battle is followed by Eminem talking about his experiences battling in the past. This evolves to Hanson staging a contest for three extras to earn the right to battle Eminem for some extra scenes leading up to the final battle in the film. Over one hundred and thirty people signed up to try out and therefore it must have taken an entire day to stage the contest. These one hundred and thirty were trimmed down to twenty semi finalists who then staged a proper battle with fifteen seconds each to impress the director and the crowd. The dexterity with words some of these people have is remarkable. It’s a fun extra feature to see how people really manage to do these feats. This culminates is a sequence in which the winners get to battle Eminem except since Eminen’s voice was starting to wane after three days of battling the director asked him to mime so we do not find out what he said for a few of the battles. It’s all good though, and I was extra impressed. This sequence runs in at a smidge under twenty four minutes.

Next up is the video for Superman from Eminem’s album The Eminem Show. A slightly explicit video presented in 1.33:1 has a couple of extra rude words dubbed out which is what made me realise I was reviewing the version with censored extra features. Note that you can also buy the uncensored version.

8 Mile

The Music from 8 Mile is just a list of tracks from both the soundtrack albums this film created which is annoying as I was hoping for the Lose Yourself video. A nice touch lists all the music used in the film and clicking on each track takes you and plays that particular scene so you can relive the Sweet Home Alabama scene quickly and easily. Next up is the films theatrical trailer running in at two minutes twenty three and presented in a letterboxed 1.33:1 with 5.1 sound.

The Production Notes are not really notes – it is more like a Production Book. Running in at around forty pages this is a long read and unlike any production notes on a DVD I have ever seen before as they normally run in at three or four pages maximum. Cast and Filmmakers is a biography for several of the key cast and crew members. Nothing particularly interesting here. Recommendations is a one page effort trying to sell you American Pie, The Fast and the Furious and How High – trailers or any information, but just a look at the cover art for each film. There is also a DVD-Rom section which promises an “Exclusive hotlink to a secret location featuring additional behind the scenes footage, interviews and other spectacular information about the movie 8 Mile.”

Overall
A tight package, presented nicely with its mostly animated themed menus with a good picture and sound of a pretty decent film. The extras are reasonably limited, however the Rap Battles feature is extraordinary and should be watched by everyone who liked the film. Fans of Eminem should buy this, and people who are thinking of redecorating should just get this and turn that sub up – your walls will shake.


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