I Watched ‘Da 5 Bloods’ and ‘Artemis Fowl’ on the Same Weekend: Here’s What Happened

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CREDIT: David Lee/Netflix; Walt Disney Studios/YouTube Screenshot

Da 5 Bloods

Starring: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Johnny Trí Nguyễn, Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Pääkkönen, Jean Reno, Victoria Ngo

Director: Spike Lee

Running Time:

Rating: R for Sometimes Shocking, Sometimes Not-So-Shocking Graphic Violence

Release Date: June 12, 2020 (Netflix)

Artemis Fowl

Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Judi Dench

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG for Goofy Fantasy Action

Release Date: June 12, 2020 (Disney+)

I was so worried that I was going to spend so much of my time watching Da 5 Bloods bemoaning its lack of a theatrical release. For one thing, the event status of a Spike Lee joint is unavoidably diminished by an at-home debut, and furthermore, I was concerned that even if I was really feeling it, there would be too many distractions fighting for my attention. Regarding the former, I just had to make peace with that fact. As for the latter, I can’t tell you the last time a Netflix release pulled me in with such a firm grip and refused to let go. A prologue swoops in hard and fast with real-world contextualizing footage from the Vietnam War era: Man goes to the moon! Muhammad Ali refuses to serve! Riots at the DNC! Nguyễn Ngọc Loan is executed! If you look away for even a second, you’re going to miss something essential.

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SNL Review April 7, 2018: Chadwick Boseman/Cardi B

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult: http://newscult.com/snl-love-itkeep-itleave-chadwick-bosemancardi-b/

Outnumbered – C+

Chadwick Boseman’s Monologue – B-

Nike Pro-Chiller Leggings – C

Black Jeopardy – B+

Fertility Frontier Project – B

Aidy B – B-

Cardi B performs “Bodak Yellow”/”Bartier Cardi” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Mark Zuckerberg – C
Angel, Every Boxer’s Girlfriend From Every Boxing Movie Ever – B

Magic Mirror – B

Warehouse Fire – B

Cardi B performs “Be Careful” – B-

Restaurant Complaint – B-

The Game of Life: DACA Edition – B

Black Panther Screening – C

This Is a Movie Review: Black Panther

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CREDIT: Disney/Marvel Studios

This post was originally published on News Cult in February 2018.

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Sterling K. Brown

Director: Ryan Coogler

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Prolonged Fighting with a Variety of Weapons, Some of It Fairly Brutal and Bloody

Release Date: February 16, 2018

Black Panther culminates with the lesson, “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.” This appeal would seem to apply most directly to the United States at this particular cultural moment, but instead it is an exhortation to the fictional African nation of Wakanda now that its new king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has ascended. Wakanda is filled with vast riches and incredibly advanced technology thanks to the stockpile of the alien metal vibranium long ago delivered by a meteorite crash. But it is also supposedly one of the poorest nations on the planet, likely due to a generations-long isolationist policy. Much of Black Panther feels like buildup to this point of opening up to the rest of the world, and in that way it is a prelude to the sequels that are sure to come. But what it reveals over the course of that prelude is thrilling.

Black Panther is not the first black superhero movie, but with a majority-black cast, black director, and African setting, it is unabashedly black in so many ways that are unprecedented for a blockbuster of this magnitude. It is unsurprising then that its initial villain is reminiscent of blaxploitation heroes fighting against The Man. Ulysses Klaue (an agreeably gonzo Andy Serkis) is a white South African arms dealer who is looking to get his hands on vibranium and make a pretty penny in the black market.  But after Klaue is dispatched, the conflict ultimately comes down to that between T’Challa and Eric “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), who was born in America but has Wakandan roots and just as legitimate a claim to the throne as T’Challa. While Killmonger’s methods are overly destructive, his complaints, both personal and regarding how Wakanda does its public business, are legitimate. That Black Panther focuses on an intranational conflict should not be viewed as evidence of African and black cultures refusing to engage with the rest of the world, but rather an illustration that they already have plenty to keep themselves occupied.

While filled with several action set pieces and a fast-moving plot, Black Panther is most successful in its design and production elements. This is the sort of movie that brings a fully realized vision of a fictional world to life. The costumes are based on traditional African garb, but they are their own uniquely lavish style. Diverse tattoos and piercings add to the mix, including a few elements (such as one very stretched-out lower lip) that could be presented comically but are instead signs of dignity.

Culturally, this is a people that honors its elders, going so far as to have another dimension of sorts that exists at the nexus of technology and magic. Dubbed “the Ancestral Plane,” its purpose is for new kings to visit their deceased forebears for the sake of imparting necessary wisdom. Wakanda also treats its women in high regard, as they no big deal serve essential roles in government, science, and diplomacy. It may be true that the throne may not appear to be an option for woman (at least in this outing), but the monarchy is not as unilateral a position as it could possibly be. Considering all that progressiveness, it is disheartening that so much of Wakanda honor is bound up in a code of fighting and a culture of combat. That is not a complaint against the movie; in fact, what we have here is an appreciably complicated look at the difficulty to be a paragon of a nation.

The Black Panther is not just T’Challa, but rather a mantle that he holds currently. Accordingly, Black Panther the film is very much an ensemble piece, with attitude- and passion-driven performances from all the Wakandan tribes. The particular breakthrough is Letitia Wright (probably best known for the “Black Museum” episode of Black Mirror) as T’Challa’s spitfire younger sister Shuri, who manages to be both the comic relief and the Q to his James Bond.

Black Panther fits squarely within the overarching narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though it can stand firmly on its own. Furthermore, it is nice to see it sidestep the easy template of the typical origin story that most solo superhero cinematic debuts tend towards. It has the standard two post-credits scenes, and weirdly enough they fit in the the MCU’s next chapter more squarely than other recent post-credits stingers. The last one is also more satisfying than those recent examples, perhaps because Black Panther takes care of its own, and we are ready when it stretches out.

Black Panther is Recommended If You Like: Shaft, Captain America: Civil War, Fruitvale Station

Grade: 3.75 out of 5 Headwraps

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Marshall’ is an Electric Portrait of the Supreme Court Justice as a Young NAACP Defense Lawyer

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CREDIT: Barry Wetcher/Open Road Films

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2017.

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Kate Hudson, James Cromwell, Dan Stevens, Ahna O’Reilly

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for the Dangers of Being And/Or Defending a Black Man in Mid-Century America

Release Date: October 13, 2017 (Moderate)

I almost feel like it is my Professional Critical Duty to take Marshall to task for its most straightforward biopic tendencies. In that vein, while Marcus Miller’s jazzy score that just won’t quit is agreeably toe-tapping, it does indeed make it consistently clear when you are supposed to feel angry, or concerned, or shocked, or stirred to pride. But I can live with one element being on the nose, especially if it is enjoyable in and of itself. Besides, Marshall mostly sidesteps biopic clichés (save for one silly moment of epiphany). It only just superficially feels cliché because justice prevails so rousingly. But it deserves to prevail because its subject is kind of one of the best lawyers in American history.

Reginald Hudlin’s film wisely opts for the surest path to biopic success, i.e., focusing on one chapter in the subject’s life. In 1940, more than two decades before he ascended to the U.S. Supreme Court, and twelve years before he argued before that same court in Brown v. Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) was a lawyer working for the NAACP, whose mission was to represent wrongfully accused African Americans across the country. One of those wrongfully accused was Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown, cast both for and against his type of commonly decent men), a driver for a wealthy Connecticut family on trial for raping the woman he works for (Kate Hudson). Marshall’s co-counsel is insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), but since Sam is the only one certified to practice law in the state, only he and not Thurgood can speak during the trial, thanks to the ruling of a possibly racist or perhaps just frustratingly strict judge (James Cromwell).

Marshall is not out to score liberal brownie points, though it could easily settle for that. What it is more interested in, and what makes it so valuable, is examining why systems and social norms exist, and exploiting them for the best possible solution. A man like Joseph can find himself unfairly fighting for his life not just because he is black, but also because he is not entirely innocent. He has been guilty of unfaithfulness, petty theft, and absentee parenting. None of this makes him a rapist, but it is the conflation of all crimes that has been used and continues to be used as faux justification for the endurance of institutional racism. Marshall the film, and Marshall the man, say that yes, there is racism here, but there’s more to it than that. When it comes down to it, judge, jury, and opposing counsel are all people, and they can be appealed to if you know how to wield the truth properly and effectively, and are willing to take a few shots from those who aren’t ready yet.

Marshall is Recommended If You Like: To Kill a Mockingbird, Conviction, Selma, 42

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Pebbles