JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (2021)

Directed By: Shaka King
Written By: Shaka King & Will Berson
Story By: Shaka King, Will Berson, Kenneth Lucas & Keith Lucas
Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt
Editor: Kristin Sprague

Cast: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Dominique Thorne, Robert Longstreet, Jermaine Fowler 

Fred Hampton, a young, charismatic activist, becomes Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party – putting him directly in the crosshairs of the government, the FBI, and the Chicago Police. But to destroy the revolution, the authorities are going to need a man on the inside.


This movie is so much more than one might think. It is a historical account of the cos piracy behind the assassination of Fred Hampton who was 21 at the time, but instead of just recreating and renacting moments that lead to his downfall.

The film offers a character piece of sorts not only of Fred Hampton but also of the man who worked as a confidential informant to get intel about him and the black panthers.

The film shows Hampton to be a hero and revolutionary but also a human being. Trying to fight for his people and civil rights. While it seemed at every turn the government was eagerly planning and arranging his downfall. Where it seems that after he is released from jail the weight of everything really starts to hit him and he seems to know that his time might be coming to an end, but still so more concerned for Those around him and the people he is trying to save. All do this and he was only 21 years old. If he achieved all of this at such a young age imagine what he could have accomplished had he lived. 

That is sort of the tragedy imagine what could have been accomplished if there wasn’t a conspiracy against minorities whenever they try to stand up for themselves.

The film doesn’t shy away, As it never does with showing how demeaning black people were treated and unjust and antagonized that they are. It shows that he even inspired street gangs to come together to form a community to help their own communities.

The film does show some of the behind-the-scenes of the F.B.I and their tactics to take him down. It even Shows the point of view of an idealistic agent who actually believes that the black Panther party is more of a terrorist group and he believes in civil rights for all and becomes dismayed by what he see’s continuously as unjust but keeps following orders with no kind of resistance until he has an awakening that jailing Hampton is not enough and what his superiors want. As jail just empowers freedom fighters. The end goal is death and while he likes to think he and the agency are better than that. He is questioned how would he feel if his daughter brought a black man home and he then comes face to face with his own prejudice and realizes he is just as bad and will tow the company line.

The difference between this movie and some others is that in other films he would gain his soul back and ask us to be sympathetic towards him. This film doesn’t do that it allows to show that he has a choice between right and wrong which he knows and he chooses the wrong knowing it is bad and against what he supposedly stands for. Making him worse than those he and his co-workers choose to take down. 

This film is beautifully and masterfully directed and you feel every moment and every scene. Every performance even smaller ones make you take notice and care.

Daniel Kaliuya is mesmerizing in the role of Fred Hampton which he inhabits with strength and swagger commanding your attention in every scene he is in and making you feel sympathy when he is faced with challenges beyond his control. 

He has played leads before and is usually memorable in films, but this is the first time it feels like has gone above and beyond.

Lakeith Stansfeld continues to impress he is more the lead here as William O’Neil who is a hustler and minor criminal who gets roped into this to avoid jail time at first and then realizes he can’t walk away. Especially as his loyalties get stronger more towards Hampton and the cause. A kind of Donnie Brasco situation only here the panthers aren’t the criminals and are trying to better things. We can see the despair it places on him and in the end the pittance he is given for sacrificing someone who actually became a friend 

Stansfeld shows all the emotions and complexities of his character and the inner destruction his actions cause. He shows off his cunningness and skills of thinking on his feet and ultimately the defeat of his soul. Even in the alter scenes his paranoia.

This is refreshing as get to see him play a solid character and not the quirky roles that he has gotten pigeonholed with in the past. Showing he has leading man chops and quite a wide range.

Though these two are at the center of the story and film. The film does allow for side stories and characters. Like two best friends who join and meet unfortunate violent ends away from one another. One is purposely assassinated the other goes full-on vigilante after his death.

This is a film that is powerful and humanizes names and people you might have heard about in history books and while they are legends abd martyrs this film allows them to be recognized and humanized. 

Ultimately this film is a tragedy. It hits all the more as it is based on truth. So that by the end you are devastated, but you marvel at what you have just watched and sat through

Grade: A

THE PHOTOGRAPH (2020)

Written & Directed By: Stella Meghie 
Cinematography: Mark Schwartzbard 
Editor: Shannon Baker Davis 

Cast: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chante Adams, Y’Lan Noel, Kelvin Harrison jr., Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Rob Morgan, Courtney B. Vance, Chelsea Peretti 

A series of intertwining love stories set in the past and in the present.


The reason I really wanted this film to work. Is that it is rare that you see black romance onscreen. There are films that have it but they only Come around once a decade. As usually on film they just fall in love and get married as part of a bigger story or they are already married and friends to other people in the movie. A supporting character usually having a wife or girlfriend. Or they are the arguing couple or their relationship is more comedic throughout. Never quite deep and never truly showing love and definitely not romance.

 As it makes or seem like the characters are more materialistic, a sexual, sexual only or shallow. It rarely celebrates the beauty of black characters making it seem like they are only as worthy as their looks or body parts.

This leads to a lack of representation again and leaves black people with very few examples of on-screen love. Which might be why at times and at large it seems to be a rarity onscreen and off at times also.

This film at least tries to work against the negative stereotypes and represent and present a love story that doesn’t rely on race heavily but is a black film Romance. With beautiful artistic characters.

So while this film is a romantic drama. what doesn’t precisely work is that it has two love stories that parallel one another and are supposed to complement each other as well as tell their own and nurture one another. The problem is that the one from the past is so much deeper and more felt throughout. 

While the modern romance is similar it doesn’t feel as deep. As it happens faster and doesn’t have any challenges until towards  the end. Leaving it more bland and quite frankly a bit dull. 

There are no hardships for the romance really because as soon as they see one another we know this is meant to be. While the flashbacks to older characters which is the reason they met and came together in the first place. Has so much drama and meaning. It makes the modern one feel a bit empty.

Though at least we get to see the thrill of the chase at the beginning of their courtship. Trying to impress or. Another and be witty. It also lets us see their passion for one another and the reasons they and their romance grows 

The film might have been stronger if rather than treating it as a puzzle and parallel if the older story was told first and then see how it affects the modern in bits. Though it seems it is there to show parallels as well as keep the story motivated as a kind of mystery.

Either way the film definitely has a cultured vibe and mood throughout with a great jazz soundtrack. It’s nice to see a film of black professionals who are upwardly mobile and successful more upper-middle class. 

One only wishes the modern-day Romance was stronger.

If i had to describe this movie with one word soulful.

Grade: C+

UNCUT GEMS (2019)

UNCUT GEMS

Directed By: Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie
Written By: Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, Ronald Bronstein
Cinematography: Darius Khondji
Editor: Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie 


Cast: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Eric Bogosian, Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, The Weeknd, Kevin Garnett, Noa Fisher, Keith Williams Richards, John Amos, Judd Hirsch 


From acclaimed filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie comes an electrifying crime thriller about Howard Ratner, a charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score. When he makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime, Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides, in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.

Continue reading “UNCUT GEMS (2019)”

KNIVES OUT (2019)

knivesout1

 

Written & Directed By: Rian Johnson
Cinematography: Steve Yedlin
Editor: Bob Duscay 


Cast: Daniel Craig, Ana De Armas, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Chris Evans, Noah Segan, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Frank Oz, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, M. Emmet Walsh 


When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.

Continue reading “KNIVES OUT (2019)”

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (2018)

sorry-to-bother-you-omari-hardwick-600x393

 

Written & Directed By: Boots Riley
Cinematography By: Doug Emmett
Editor: Terel Gibson 


Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yuen, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, Kate Berlant, Danny Glover, Robert Longstreet, Michael X. Sommers, Forest Whitaker, Rosario Dawson, David Cross, Lily James, Patton Oswalt  


In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed.

Continue reading “SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (2018)”