“DA 5 BLOODS” Review (✫✫✫✫)

Bloods don’t die. They multiply.

The only thing that’s more forgotten than a soldier of war is a black soldier. Spike Lee’s Vietnam war epic Da 5 Bloods observes this truth with sobering reality and honesty, taking you through the plight of five black soldiers who went through hell in Vietnam only to trade it for another hell when they came back home to America. Several movies have been done about the Vietnam war now, from Apocalypse Now to Born on the Fourth of July. Yet I’ve never seen a movie quite like Da 5 Bloods.

In Da 5 Bloods, a group of veterans venture back to Vietnam to bury their fallen squad leader and recover treasure they left behind during the war. Their squad leader is Stormin’ Norman, powerfully portrayed by Chadick Boseman in his first major role since Black Panther. The rest of the Bloods include Otis (Clarke Peters), David (Jonathan Majors), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Paul (Delroy Lindo), who is the most devastated and haunted by Stormin’ Norman’s demise in Vietnam.

One of the immediate things you’ll notice about Da 5 Bloods is its creative direction. While Spike Lee is no stranger to displaying style and pizzazz in his movies whether it’s BlacKkKlansman, Malcolm X, or Do The Right Thing, Da 5 Bloods is noticeably less flashy than his other major projects. While his other films place an emphasis on color, music, and production design that visually pops from the screen, Da 5 Bloods is more grim, bleak, and dark, not just in its storytelling, but also in its visual design. Whether its scenes take place in the 1960s or the present day, the shading is so unrefined and gritty that it doesn’t even feel like a movie: it feels like real life and you’re simply witnessing these men’s experiences play out in front of you.

The cinematography and editing are equally essential when it comes to further realizing the film’s sense of character. One creative detail Spike Lee utilizes is the method of filming the movie’s two different eras. In the present day, Lee and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel capture the scenes on high-definition digital cameras, reflective of today’s technological achievements. But in 1960s Vietnam, Lee and Sigel switch to 16 mm film, making the picture frame smaller and more grainy. The result is a fuller, more immersive experience that vividly places you in the same period as the Bloods. Few films do this mesmerizing of a job with its cinematography, yet Spike and Sigel make it look serene, striking, and epic (although for some reason, Spike annoyingly decided not to de-age his 60-year-old actors in the Vietnam flashbacks).

The cast is just as exceptional as Spike’s sense of artistry. While John David Washington, Samuel Jackson, Don Cheadle, and Giancarlo Esposito were originally slated to portray the living Bloods, scheduling conflicts prevented them from joining the film, so Lee had to seek alternatives in Peters, Majors, Lewis, and Lindo. Scheduling conflicts may have been the best thing to happen to Spike for this movie, because this quartet feels organic and authentic in relationship to one another. It’s not often where a film brings together an ensemble cast and makes it feel this natural and fluid, yet these actors do such a great job at portraying their love and affection for one another that they can’t help but really feel like long-lost friends reuniting under tragic circumstances.

But of the four leads, Delroy Lindo easily shines the most. You’d recognize him as West Indian Archie from Lee’s Malcolm X. But unlike most of his other supporting roles, Lindo takes more of a leading presence in Da 5 Bloods, and he handles the pressure very well. There’s one moment in particular where he’s vividly expressing his pain, hurt, and anger, and he’s staring into the camera while he’s delivering a heart-wrenching monologue. In context, he’s obviously just talking to himself, but in the shot, it feels like he’s talking directly to you. “You” as in the white man. “You” as in the American. “You” who are unaffected by the issues that plague him and his loved ones every day. His passionate and convincing delivery feels so raw and honest that you can’t help but feel guilty by the time he delivers his last impactful line to the camera.

And of all of the elements that bind this beautifully-wrapped cinematic package together, the most essential is the themes Lee explores in his screenplay. While the script was originally written on spec by screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, Spike rewrote it to include a black American perspective. The result is a spellbinding, rich, and dense narrative filled with many relevant themes to today’s society, including racism, police brutality, violence, war, mental health, poverty, generational wealth, greed, division: even Donald Trump’s election is provided with some commentary.

All of this leads to a grim reality we’re forced to face at the end of Da 5 Bloods: many of the battles Paul, Otis, David, Eddie, and Stormin’ Norman were a part of back then are still being fought to this day. We’ve entered five wars since Vietnam ended in 1975, one of which is still ongoing in Afghanistan. The Black Lives Matter movement is still fighting for the same civil rights that Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X died for in the 60s. Hell, there’s even been multiple teases to World War III in just this year alone. Yet in their misery and despair, Da 5 Bloods reminds us of another truth that perseveres: Bloods don’t die. They multiply. The Bloods never gave up fighting. Neither should we.

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Chadwick Boseman Dies At 43

King T’Challa has moved on to join the rest of the Black Panthers in the afterlife. 

As if 2020 hasn’t robbed enough from us already, Chadwick Boseman, the Screen Actor Award-winning star of Black Panther, was just pronounced dead a few moments ago. According to The Associated Press, Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer earlier today at age 43. While he was diagnosed with the dreaded disease in 2016, he did not publicly disclose his illness and kept acting through several major productions, including Marshall, 21 Bridges, Da 5 Bloods, and of course, the last two Avengers entries and Black Panther. 

While many widely recognize Chadwick as the King of Wakanda in the record-breaking 2018 blockbuster, I first learned of Chadwick through one of his earliest roles as Jackie Robinson in the 2013 sports drama 42. Since then, I’ve gotten the privilege to see him move on to portray James Brown in Get On Up, Jacob King in Message From The King, and even Thoth in that dreadful Gods of Egypt movie. Seeing his career progress so quickly up until being cast as the Black Panther in that short of a time span was amazing to see, and I loved being able to watch him succeed in all of that. 

Needless to say, I’m devastated to learn about his passing. Chadwick was one of the most promising rising stars of this generation, creating an impact with moviegoing audiences everywhere long before he was even cast as Black Panther. But despite how much his life was cut short or how much of his career was left unfulfilled, I am grateful I got to witness a part of his life and support him during his great journey. 

Rest in power, King. You deserve it. 

R.I.P. 1976 – 2020 

SOURCE: Associated Press, Variety

Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck To Reprise Batman Roles In ‘The Flash’

Robert Pattinson isn’t the only one suiting up as the caped crusader next year. 

DC Comics recently held its inaugural FanDome online, where they broke news, exclusive clips, and trailers regarding future DC projects. We got a new release date for the delayed Wonder Woman 1984. The full cast lineup was announced for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Matt Reeves even released a new trailer for The Batman, in which Robert Pattinson looks simply stunning as the world’s greatest detective. 

But interestingly enough, Pattinson won’t be the only Batman actor suiting up again next year. During a virtual panel for the upcoming Flash movie starring Ezra Miller and directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama, It), two actors are confirmed to reprise their roles as Batman. The first is Ben Affleck, who retired from the role shortly after vacating from directing The Batman last year. The second is much more interesting. After 30 years of taking on the Penguin and Catwoman in the Gotham sewers, Michael Keaton will be reprising the role of Batman as a significantly older variation of the character. 

Although it was initially a rumor a month ago, the production essentially confirmed this with some new concept art showing of Barry Allen’s sleek new Flash suit, presumably designed by WayneTech industries. While it’s hard to make out, the Batman behind Flash clearly shows it’s an elder Bruce Wayne, and furthermore, his bat symbol has the yellow symbol – exactly like it is in the Tim Burton movies. This basically confirms that Keaton is involved with the production and he will be reprising his role as Batman, though whether it will specifically be the Batman from the Burton movies or another future variation entirely remains to be seen. 

The fact that both Keaton and Affleck are reprising their Batman roles for The Flash confirms another long-rumored detail that the film is, in fact, an adaptation of the “Flashpoint” storyline, a comic miniseries that showed Barry running back in time to save his mother from the Reverse-Flash and accidentally create an alternate reality where everything went wrong. 

Two interesting things to note about this premise. For one thing, in the original “Flashpoint” storyline, Batman is actually Bruce’s father Thomas Wayne, portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Batman v Superman. The fact that both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton are in the upcoming Flash movie implies that Bruce Wayne will be a prominent part of the storyline in both timelines, not Thomas, which already spells interesting possibilities on its own.

Second, when “Flashpoint” takes place in Flash’s storyline, he’s already a well-established character that has fought several supervillains such as Captain Cold, King Shark, and Grodd before he went back in time to save his mother. In other words, “Flashpoint” was not the introduction for the character; it was his climax. For Pete’s sake, it was the entire premise for the third season of the CW’s “Flash” TV series. Why oh why would you choose this as the starting point for Flash’s own movie series? I understand he’s already been introduced in the mediocre Justice League movie, but when it comes to his solo debut he has a chance to really shine on his own without being overshadowed by bigger characters like Superman or Batman. Why would you make his first solo outing a crossover event the likes of which has literally shifted the foundations of the DC universe? It makes absolutely no sense. 

The “Flashpoint” movie also raises another interesting question: who’s going to portray Eobard Thawne? In “Flashpoint,” Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. Reverse-Flash was an essential part of that storyline, taunting Barry and teasing him with his own failure to the point where it drove him to go back in time and make a fateful mistake by attempting to right a wrong. That begs the question of who would play him? Some fans have thrown out names such as Kevin Bacon and Dan Stevens, but personally, I think Anthony Starr would be the best fit. His performance as Homelander in “The Boys” was smug, cocky, and high-strung; perfect for the full-of-himself character of Eobard Thawne. I only worry he may not be given enough space to really shine or stand out as a villain. After all, “Flashpoint” is already packed with a very large cast. 

We’ll have to wait and see which bizarre and unexpected directions The Flash takes us in 2022. In the meantime, enjoy rewatching The Batman trailer all over again, because nobody can get enough of that. 

– David Dunn

SOURCE: Collider, ComingSoon.net

Top 10 Oscar Wins Of The Decade

There aren’t many good moments to pick from Academy Awards history. Whether it’s Seth McFarlane hosting the ceremony or Faye Dunaway flubbing up the Best Picture winner, the Oscars are filled with one maddening, cringe-worthy moment after another. That’s part of why the good moments are so endearing and memorable, despite also being so far and few in between. With the 93rd Academy Awards postponed to April 2021 (potentially even further with how the rest of 2020 is going), now is a great time to reflect on the 2010s and go over the 10 best Oscar wins of the decade. Spoiler alert: I’m not wearing pants while I’m making the list.

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‘Mulan’ To Be Released On Disney+ 

And here we were, thinking we wouldn’t get any more new movies this year.

Ever since the coronavirus ravaged the country in May, several movie releases were either delayed or entirely removed from the 2020 calendar. First the newest James Bond movie No Time To Die was delayed until November. Sequels like A Quiet Place Part II, meanwhile, were postponed until next year. Other movies like Christopher Nolan’s science-fiction thriller Tenet were removed from the release calendar altogether. It’s safe to say the movie industry is in complete disarray right now and with no end in sight thanks to the coronavirus.

Well, Walt Disney just confirmed that at least one movie will be released this year despite the mounting pandemic: Mulan, the live-action remake of the Walt Disney animated feature of the same name, will be released in homes through the Disney+ streaming service.

According to Deadline, the company confirmed that Mulan would be regularly released in countries where theaters are currently open like China and Italy, but would be streamed for a premium price of $30 on Disney+ for countries that are still fighting the pandemic like the United States.

I have mixed feelings about this development. On one hand, I’m excited that I’ll get to see Mulan as originally planned this year, just in a much smaller theater and with less pants. I’ll happily spend the $30 premium price to watch it, even though I completely understand if some families feel that’s a little too absurd and pricey.

On the other hand, I was really looking forward to watching Mulan in a big-screen experience and am afraid I may not get the chance to now. Disney has not announced whether or not it will re-release Mulan in theaters after the pandemic passes, but depending on how successful it is, anything is possible. After all, the three highest-grossing movies of all time Avengers: Endgame, Avatar, and Titanic all saw theatrical re-releases, even though none of them needed help at the box office.

There’s also the thought to consider of what impact this will have on movie theaters as a whole. With remakes like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King all grossing well over a billion dollars, it’s obvious that live-action Walt Disney remakes are a hot commodity for the movie industry. But with Mulan moving online, that threatens to take all of movie theater’s potential earnings and pour them more directly into Disney’s pockets. This could potentially create a huge loss of business for movie theaters and further jeopardize the tough position they’re already in for a complicated market.

And while Walt Disney states that releasing Mulan straight to homes is “a one-off,” that once again can change depending on the kind of success it sees. Superhero movies like Marvel’s Black Widow can now potentially find new life on Disney+, while animated movies like Pixar’s upcoming Soul can possibly be seen by younger audiences much sooner. And don’t even get me started on the release hell that the horror movie The New Mutants has caught itself up in.

All in all, this is strange news for strange times. We’ll have to wait and see how these trends pan out and how they might change the movie industry going forward.

– David

SOURCE: Deadline, The Verge

“JACK AND JILL” Review (Zero Stars)

SOURCE: Sony Pictures

Poopsie-whoopsie! Why did you make a floopsie-doo-dooski?

It should be illegal to make movies as terrible as Jack and Jill. This isn’t the usual sort of terrible where the cast and crew are merely incompetent at making a good movie  it’s the sort of terrible where they fully understand how to make a bad movie and are aggressively committed to making it as asinine, annoying, and offensive on the senses as possible. Well if Jack and Jill’s goal was to make one of the worst movies ever made, then they succeeded. May they never succeed at anything ever again.

Jack and Jill stars Adam Sandler as identical twins Jack and Jill, with the latter sibling being portrayed with drag and a wig that’s so fake-looking that I’m wondering which mannequin he took it from. The story follows the dreadful duo on a series of absurd adventures, some of which include inviting homeless people to Thanksgiving dinner, appearing on a game show, crushing a helpless horse under Jill’s weight, going to a Lakers game, and being stalked by Al Pacino. And when I say that, no, I’m not saying that it’s a character played by Al Pacino: I mean the actual, real, Academy Award-winner Al Pacino is in love with Adam Sandler in drag and is stalking her/him.

I don’t know what’s more disturbing; watching Al Pacino sexually harass Adam Sandler or knowing that both men willingly agreed to this.

Where do I start with this movie? What’s the worst part? Do I start with the screenplay, which is so childish and immature that fifth graders would be offended? Do I start with the performances, all of which are so obnoxious and distasteful that it makes The Room look artful by comparison? Or do I elaborate on its technical failings, all of which are so basic and amateurish that it makes The Hallmark Channel seem watchable?

Let’s start with the premise itself, in which the idea to have Adam Sandler playing gender-swapping roles is gimmicky at best and downright repugnant at its worst. For some comedic actors, they’re able to successfully play both masculine and feminine characters with finesse and flair, among my favorites being Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire.

Adam Sandler is not one of those actors. Simply put, he doesn’t have the training or the ability to act much beyond his own generic self. That’s why when Jack puts on a dress later in the movie and pretends to be Jill, there’s literally no discernible difference between Jill and the disguised Jack. It’s the same God-awful performance either way.

And seeing Adam Sandler dressed as a woman is truly an unpleasant sight to suffer through. While other gender-swapping roles put its actors through extensive makeup and costuming to make them look believable as women, Sandler just slaps on whatever outfit he bought from GAP and the lipstick and eyelashes he got from Ulta Beauty and calls it a transformation. It’s easily one of the laziest makeup and costuming jobs I’ve ever seen, and I’ve suffered through White Chicks.

But it isn’t just how Adam Sandler looks: his dialogue is just as insufferable and grotesque as the rest of his appearance is. Jill is disgusting, foul, whiny, and loud-mouthed to the point where you need earplugs to even attempt to listen to her. Sandler’s voice as Jill is so high-pitched and screechy that I’m shocked no windows in the theater broke every time Jill talked. Why Sandler chose this particular voice for Jill I have no idea. All I know is that I had to check my ears at the end of the screening to make sure they weren’t bleeding from all of the grated squealing they suffered through.

This begs a question that I, unfortunately, do not have an answer to: why was this movie made? Who was this movie made for? What purpose does it serve other than to test my patience and sanity? I cannot rationalize this movie for any reason whatsoever under any spectrum of thought. If it was supposed to be funny, why didn’t I laugh? If it was supposed to be endearing, why was I enraged the entire time while watching it? If it was supposed to be heartfelt, why did I drive my hands into my skull every time one of the characters spoke? If it was supposed to be sincere, why did the film reek of contrivance and laziness? And if it was supposed to be entertaining, why did I spend all 90 minutes fantasizing about strangling every single person I saw in the film?

While he was once known for starring in cheeky and amusing comedies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Wedding Singer, Adam Sandler has been making one string of bad decisions after another, whether it’s with the cheap and juvenile Grown Ups or the dull and uninspired Just Go With It. Jack and Jill confirms his downward spiral of insanity. For his own safety and well-being, he needs to be checked into a psychological ward as soon as humanly possible, and then his unfortunate viewers should seek counseling to process Jack and Jill in a healthy way.

After watching a trailer where he’s promoting Dunkin’ Donuts’ new Dunkaccino (hardee-har-har), Al Pacino demands that Jack burn all copies of it, warning him “This must never be seen by anyone.” He should have warned Jack and Jill’s producers instead and saved us all from the embarrassment.

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“THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

SOURCE: Universal Pictures

What you can’t see can hurt you. 

An invisible threat haunts Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) at the beginning of The Invisible Man – and despite what you might expect, it isn’t the film’s titular villain. Instead, the invisible threat that looms over Kass is the same one that has followed Kelly McGillis, Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Kesha, Taylor Swift, E. Jean Carroll, Christine Blasey Ford, and several other women: abuse.

We see how it’s affected Kass early on in the film; how she fears sleeping next to her boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and how she quietly and meticulously creeps around the house so as not to wake him. She’s lucky enough to escape from her abusive relationship and stay at her friend James’ (Aldis Hodge) place as she recovers and picks up the broken pieces of her shattered life. Then one day she receives news that brings her a sigh of relief: Adrian killed himself shortly after Kass left him.

At least, that’s what Kass is told at first. But then she starts noticing strange things around the house. She finds an old pill bottle in her bathroom that she left behind at Adrian’s place when she left. Her belongings keep getting shifted around, moved from one place to another, and sometimes disappearing altogether. And despite being told over and over again that Adrian is dead, Kass can’t help but feel that he’s still around, always watching her close by.

I didn’t have high hopes for The Invisible Man prior to seeing this movie. Why would I? For one thing, it’s a remake of the 1940s Invisible Man movies by Universal, and horror remakes go over just about as well as Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho. It’s a February release, and spring movies tend to be among the worst films released on any given year. And to top it all off, The Invisible Man was originally planned to be an inclusion in Universal’s Dark Universe franchise  and if you want to know how bad of a start that franchise got off to, go watch Tom Cruise’s Mummy remake.

So I had no expectations of this movie being any good, let alone even remotely entertaining. Yet The Invisible Man blew away all of my expectations, immersing me in a harrowing, haunting, and nerve-wracking experience that doesn’t fail to send chills down your spine or stick the hairs up on your neck.

One of the many ways that this film succeeds in doing that is in its clever and carefully-crafted cinematography, which evokes a sense of dread and angst throughout the whole picture. Director Leigh Whannell and longtime collaborator Stefan Duscio smartly frame each shot slightly off-center, leaving plenty of white space between its characters and their environments. If this were any other film, you might think the shot was simply framed sloppily and the crew was just too lazy to readjust it. Instead the framing is used for artistic effect, creating the uneasy presence of another character despite never being able to see him. You feel like somebody is always watching Kass, and therefore, somebody is always watching you.

Elizabeth Moss is especially convincing in portraying a traumatized survivor still haunted by her seemingly dead boyfriend. We already knew that she was a skilled and talented actress in television shows like “Mad Men” and “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” but here she demonstrates another layer of expression that feels especially raw and vulnerable. If you removed Elizabeth Moss completely from this movie and put her into another movie where its protagonist was dealing with PTSD from an abusive relationship, it would still work very well. That’s because she isn’t portraying a stock final girl archetype you usually find in many of these horror movies: she’s playing a fleshed out and fully-realized character dealing with her own unique problems and isolation. That depth and complexion adds a lot of emotional weight to this seemingly simple horror movie, establishing a strong connection to its main character and making us root for her throughout the picture.

All of this contributes to Leigh Whannell’s exemplary ability to elevate this picture beyond its original expectations. While the movie is all sorts of exciting and riveting on its own, Whannell uses the thrills and jump scares to tell a deeper narrative about the mistreatment of women and how we respond to them speaking their truth. We’ve seen this in a few other movies now where they use their blockbuster appeal to share something deeper and more compelling, such as the topic of racism in Get Out, mental health and well-being in Joker, wealth inequality in Parasite, and artificial intelligence in Leigh Whannell’s own Upgrade. Here, Whannell is utilizing a classic premise to pioneer a powerful pro-feminist anthem, not unlike other blockbusters such as Alien or Mad Max: Fury Road.

Of course, the movie is not without its flaws. The first act specifically uses a lot of time for setup and drags in terms of pacing. With this being a horror movie, you’re bound to get at least one or two groan-inducing moments where characters seem to be begging to get killed through one stupid mistake or another. And there’s one scene in particular where the invisible man is slaughtering a whole hallway full of guards, all while the security cameras capture the whole scene. You’d think people would see that footage and believe Kass’ outlandish claims, yet the moment is dropped as quickly as it is brought up and is never revisited again.

None of this changes how ingenious and unsettling The Invisible Man is in its eerie premise: how brilliant it is in guiding its audience through one jaw-dropping scare after another and how even more brilliant it is in weaving deeper feminist themes into its narrative. I wondered before going into this movie why its planned sequel was titled The Invisible Woman. Now I know why.

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Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ Delayed Indefinitely

Tenet: a word that will open the right doors, some of the wrong ones.

Well, in this case, it closed one.

Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated science-fiction thriller Tenet has been delayed indefinitely. Originally slated for a July release this summer, Tenet was rescheduled for August before coronavirus cases escalated yet again. As positive cases continue to climb towards the four million mark in the United States, Warner Bros. has recently removed Tenet from its 2020 release calendar altogether, stating that it will announce a new release date “imminently.”

To quote Commissioner Gordon from The Dark Knight Rises, that basically means “We’re on our own.” Tenet is not the first movie to be delayed due to the coronavirus. James Bond’s No Time To Die, Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow, and A Quiet Place Part II all got pushed back from their original release dates earlier this year, effectively eliminating 2020’s summer movie season. But after Tenet was wiped from the 2020 calendar altogether, that means other movies could quite possibly follow suit, leaving many to wonder when the movie theaters will reopen this year if at all.

And movie theaters are already in a tough spot due to the coronavirus. AMC Theatres, the largest movie theater chain in the United States, posted a $2.4 billion loss in its first quarter this year, and the industry as a whole has lost over $10 billion as of May, according to Forbes. CNBC reported that the box office is at a 20-year low, facing its worst year since 1998. How much worse it can get and for how long is only a matter of time.

Will Tenet be released directly to at-home streaming? I seriously doubt it. Christopher Nolan’s movies have always been in high demand, from The Dark Knight trilogy to Inception to Dunkirk. Throwing it onto TV screens at home feels like a throwaway, and definitely something Nolan himself wouldn’t agree to.

Whether other franchises like James Bond or Wonder Woman ultimately go that route remains to be seen. But at the moment, it seems like we’re going to have to wait until 2021 to watch Christopher Nolan’s newest feature.

– David Dunn

SOURCES: Forbes, CNBC

Ennio Morricone Dies At 91

Another Hollywood legend has passed away. 

For over 50 years, Italian composer Ennio Morricone has provided ingenious, captivating scores that defined the very films they were featured in. He wrote music for unnerving horror movies like The Exorcist Part II and The Thing, gangster dramas like Bugsy and The Untouchables, and most popularly spaghetti westerns like For A Few Dollars More and Once Upon A Time In America. His iconic theme for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly inspired the tension and the unease that several other western films would emulate for years afterwards.  

But of all of the soundtracks he’s produced, the music behind Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight proved to be the most eerie, unsettling, and haunting. It brought together all of the dramatic and thematic elements of all of his previous musical scores and also successful underscored the buildup he featured in his other westerns. He won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and an Academy Award from his work on the film, and no one was going to argue against it.

On Monday morning, the award-winning composer died from complications from falling and sustaining an injury. At 91 years old, Ennio lived a full life filled with wonderful music and imagination, inspiring other artists such as Gnarls Barkley, Metallica, David Guetta, Radiohead, and even Hans Zimmer. His legacy will live on forever, but we will miss him and his music dearly. 

Requiescat in pace, maestro Morricone. Che la tua musica ti guidi nei cieli. 

– David Dunn

SOURCE: The New York Times, NPR

“MALCOLM X” Review (✫✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Warner Bros.

Liberate your mind. 

If history has taught us anything, it was that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. had starkly different methods to fighting racism in America. Yet they were so similar in so many other ways despite all of their differences. For instance, both men have experienced firsthand the boot and lashes of white America. Both were men of faith that were compelled to action because of what they believed. Both fought fiercely and passionately for the day that black men would be free from persecution and hatred. And both were shot and killed at 39 years old before they would ever see that day realized.

But of course, Malcolm X is not remembered by many for marching for the same causes that Martin Luther King Jr. did. Malcolm is not remembered for advocating for his fellow black men, for his fight against the evils of racism, and for his rousing speeches and words burning with passion and fire. Instead, he’s remembered because his words were filled with contention and confrontation, not the piety and the hope as Dr. King’s speeches were. Regardless of which ideology you do or don’t agree with, there’s no denying the one truth that both men share: they understood all too well of what it meant to be a black man in America.

In Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Denzel Washington portrays the Muslim minister in an epic encapsulation of his whole life. The movie covers everything from his traumatic childhood where his family was hunted by white supremacists, to his robbery days as “Detroit Red,” to his discovery of Islam during his time in prison, to his emergence in the civil rights movement, all the way to his last days ministering before he was ruthlessly gunned down by Thomas Hagan and his crew.

Seeing Malcolm’s life play out like this gives perspective into who he was, where he came from, and what happened in his life to shape him into the leader he’s widely recognized as today. Writer-director Spike Lee illustrates Malcolm’s life story with intensity and conviction, fully committed to showing you who he was and who he wasn’t. Lee stylizes his scenes with flair and pizzazz, with Malcolm and his buddies dressed in colorful outfits, shucking and jiving down the streets in Boston while the smoke and police sirens linger in the background. But Lee’s film design isn’t gimmicky or exploitative of Malcolm X. Like Lee’s earlier films Do The Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues, they speak to the era they’re representing and add authenticity to Malcolm’s story.

The scenes that deal with Malcolm’s faith are especially moving and touching. When he’s first introduced to Islam in his prison cell, it’s an emotionally-stirring moment where Malcolm faces who he is and how he needs to make a change in his life. When he later confronts the hypocrisies of the Nation of Islam, he becomes disillusioned to what message he’s been preaching and what his faith really represents. And when he later travels to Mecca and encounters Muslims of all ethnicities and cultures, Malcolm experiences a spiritual revival of Islam and what it means to him. It’s a poignant redemption arc that shows how he grew from Malcolm Little to becoming Malcolm X.

I can’t talk about Malcolm X without mentioning the man who plays him. Denzel Washington is simply stunning as the civil rights activist. Whether he’s portraying him in high school trying to pick up white women, running a numbers game as a gangster, or standing against oppression in the streets as an outspoken civil rights advocate, Denzel portrays each chapter of Malcolm’s life with vigor and authenticity. He isn’t playing one character so much as he is playing several characters and their many transformations throughout their lives, and he fully commits himself to every single aspect of those characters. I find it fascinating that in the really captivating moments where he was preaching to crowds and protestors, I never once thought it was Denzel reciting someone else’s words. I only saw Malcolm X.

This leads to the film’s greatest strength, and that is its honesty. With a figure as controversial as Malcolm X, it would have been too easy to shy away from the hard conversations Malcolm X forced us to have and sanitize his story for the comfort of neutral moviegoers. But Spike Lee doesn’t do that. Instead, he lays out the entirety of Malcolm X’s legacy, and he doesn’t shy away from its highs or lows. It’s no secret that Malcolm X made many disparaging remarks to many individuals throughout his life, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and white America as a whole.

Yet the movie doesn’t virtue signal as to whether Malcolm was right or wrong in the statements he’s made: it just shows it the way it was and lets the audience decide for themselves. I’m not going to comment much on it myself, because my job as a film critic is to review the movie, not the person it’s portraying. I will say that if Malcolm X’s words bother you more than the lynchings, the police brutality, the white nationalism, and the racist institutions he was fighting against, then you need to evaluate whether it’s the words that bother you so much or the cause behind them.

Whatever conclusions you come to about his life, Malcolm X is a powerful film: dramatic, well-acted, and faithfully executed. The film forces you to face uncomfortable questions regarding America’s racist history, and many people may not like facing those truths. My view of it is that if Malcolm X couldn’t shy away from it, neither can we. We could all learn something from those that we don’t see eye-to-eye with. Perhaps we could start with Malcolm X.

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