Monday, February 15, 2021
MOVIE REVIEW: JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Now playing at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 and Roadhouse Cinemas (also streaming on HBO MAX)
Director and co-screenwriter Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah features two great actors, Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, totally on fire.
Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, has become the focus of an FBI investigation led by J. Edgar Hoover (a heavily made-up Martin Sheen). Bill O’Neal (Stanfield), after getting himself into some trouble, is enlisted by the FBI inform on Hampton and the Panthers.
From powerful speeches to the more intimate moments, Kaluuya offers up some of his best work since Get Out (in which he also costarred with Stanfield). King and Stanfield make the choice of not portraying O’Neal as a complete snake, but as a messed-up guy who got his wires crossed with tragic consequences.
Jesse Plemons is typically strong as FBI Agent Roy Mitchell, the man who enlisted O’Neal and started him on the infiltration journey that led to him being a leader in Panther security. Mitchell was a catalyst in the eventual death of Hampton, as well as O’Neal, who died of an apparent suicide years later.
This is one of 2020’s better looking films (Messiah actually qualifies as a 2020 release), a year that gave us two film portrayals of Hampton (he’s also featured in the far less effective The Trial of the Chicago 7). King’s film gives his history the screen time it deserves.[jump]
MOVIE REVIEW: MINARI
Now showing at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 and streaming via The Loft Cinema
A Korean family moves to Arkansas in the 1980s to start a new life as farmers, a dream for the father (Steven Yeun), but not so much for the mother (Yeri Han).
Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film is an elegantly told family story featuring career best work from Yeun as David, and an awards buzz-worthy performance by Yuh-jung Youn as the grandmother who comes to live with them in their manufactured home in the middle of nowhere.
Mom and dad make ends meet while building their farm, checking baby chick genders. (The males go straight to the incinerator, which now makes me feel even worse about the plight of chickens and roosters). Grandma helps watch the children while chugging Mountain Dew and enduring the good natured nonsense of her grandkids.
Will Patton provides memorable work as an eccentric neighbor with a penchant for speaking in tongues and dragging a large cross around as part of his fitness regimen. Noel Cho and Alan S. Kim are terrific as the kids.
The movie feels real, authentic and charming in its depiction of a different time in history. (Good God, was this really 40 years ago?) While his dreams come off as a bit insane in the beginning, Chung makes you believe in David, his dreams, and the little successes that comprise those dreams. You can genuinely feel the satisfaction he feels when driving his newly purchased tractor and harvesting his vegetables. You also see and feel all of the pain he and the family go through to have those satisfactory moments.
This movie is, in a word, beautiful.