Film

Seafaring adventures like In the Heart of the Sea do not benefit from gravitas any more than a vessel benefits from extra weight in the cargo hold. They are about white squalls, rope burns, cracked hulls, torn sails, men overboard, malevolent sea creatures, and water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. They are about hearty sailors staving off mutiny and fighting for survival, relying on their wits and resorting to desperate measures if necessary. Pause for even a moment to ruminate on spiritual or existential crises and the great ship starts to list.

The words "This Is An Emergency" flash on-screen in red block letters at the outset of Spike Lee's satirical call to disarm, Chi-Raq, setting up the newscaster who'll set up the title.

"Homicides in Chicago, Ill., have surpassed the death toll of American special forces in Iraq," he says.

Hence Chi-Raq. During the title sequence, rapper Nick Cannon, who plays an up-and-coming rap star in the film, underscores the urgency in song: "Please pray for my city / Too much hate in my city / City of Chi-Raq."

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Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS")

Remember Rocky? That cornpone boxing movie from 40 years ago starring (and written by) that oiled-up, headband-wearing buffoon who talks funny? The one that stole Best Picture away from Network, All the President's Men, Taxi Driver, and Hal Ashby's rather more obscure Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory?

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