*MOVIE RECAP: DA 5 BLOODS

Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee’s most impressive film since the highly acclaimed BlacKkKlansman (2018), and probably his most ambitious film in terms of content. The story follows 5 Black American Vietnam war vets who return to present-day Vietnam for the first time since the war. The ensemble cast is solid — Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Paul (Delroy Lindo).

Delroy Lindo’s character is at the center of the story. He is the most unlikeable character here — he is a MAGA hat-wearing — Trump supporter who stands against everything progressive social causes stand for today. My impression is that Paul’s character is, in a way, a direct critique of Black Americans and minorities who support or have supported Trump.

Here we have a character who lived through the civil rights movement and now, as an older person, has turned his back on the movement’s ideals. It seems that a combination of PTSD, personal tragedy, and a poor mental state have contributed to Paul’s cognitive decline. Delroy Lindo’s performance is outstanding, an early favorite for award season.

Da 5 Bloods are returning to Vietnam for the first time since the war. They are on a quest to find and recover the remains of their squad leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Bossman), who was killed during combat, and the surviving Bloods plan to bring him back home. Stormin’ Norman was not only their squad leader but also their spiritual leader, and in a sense, he commanded a father figure type of influence on the Bloods. They even refer to him as “our Malcolm and our Martin.”

They are also attempting to retrieve Gold bars buried somewhere in the jungle. The gold bars belonged to the US government but were lost in the jungle after the cargo plane carrying them went down. Da 5 Bloods buried the gold intending to return at a later time and retrieve it.

There is this reparations aspect to Stormin’ Normans’ plans with what to do with the gold. He wanted to give all the gold to the Black people of the United States. The people who had been historically mistreated and forced to send young Black men to fight this unjust and unpopular war for the United States.

While in the middle of the Vietnamese Jungle-warzone, we observed Da 5 Bloods reaction to the MLK assassination news —That was an important scene that added more context to the characters.

There are layers and layers of messages sprinkled throughout this film…. like the French characters representing, in a way, the dark history of France in Vietnam and how the French had fought and lost a war there before the American war. The French character Hedy (Melanie Thierry) came from an affluential French family who made a fortune building landmines in Vietnam, directly benefiting from the Vietnamese people’s suffering.

There are landmines still scattered throughout the jungle — Hedy now runs an NGO whose mission is to locate and get rid of all the landmines left all over Vietnam — in a way, it feels like she is attempting to undo her family’s past and the sins of her country.

The Vietnamese characters are portrayed respectfully, and their views of the American war are expressed in a more direct and personal manner, not often seen in Hollywood productions.

There are excellent technical aspects that I found impressive, like the decision to have the main characters, who are actually older men in their 60s, play younger versions of themselves in flashbacks without de-aging them or CGI; it was a courageous and remarkable decision. The action sequences and the war shots were all well-executed—there are hints of Apocalypse Now in some key scenes.

This film provides a unique view of the African American experience during the Vietnam war within the context of the civil rights era; A period in history that remains very much relevant today. Da 5 Bloods is, without a doubt, an essential film to watch.

Four out of Five Popcorn bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

DA 5 BLOODS (2020). Streaming on Netflix

*MOVIE RECAP: AQUAMAN

I avoided this movie when it came out in theaters back in 2018. Mostly ‘cause, around those days, I was not feeling any of the DC Extended Universe movies (DCEU). However, I have recently decided to give them another chance and watch them all back to back; Starting with Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which, for the most part, I really liked both of them, with a few minor exceptions here and there.

Aquaman was a massive worldwide box office hit, and now I kind of wish that I had seen it in theaters when it first came out — CGI spectacles like this type of movie are meant to be experienced on the big screen. Still, this is an entertaining movie, and it is an origin story at its core. I really liked the whole love story angle between Aquaman’s parents, which was a pretty compelling storyline. It was also pretty cool seeing Temuera Morrison (Tom Curry/Aquaman’s father), aka Jango Fett, in another big blockbuster flick.

Jason Momoa (Arthur/Aquaman) is excellent here; it is like he was tailor-made for this role. The main premise here is that Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who rules the deep ocean world of Atlantis, wants to unite all of the underwater tribes and wage war against the “surface dwellers.” Aquaman finds himself as the reluctant hero, pressured by his mentor Vulko (Willem Dafoe) to find The Trident of Atlan. This Trident is a powerful weapon that only responds to the one and true king (echoes of king Arthur and Excalibur). With this Trident, Aquaman can lay claim to the title of Ocean Master and rule over all of the underwater kingdoms, which would essentially put a stop to his half-brother’s warmongering campaign.

There is massive cheesiness in this movie, especially in the dialogue, which makes the chemistry between some of the characters tough to watch, most notably the chemistry between Amber Heard (Mera) and Jason Momoa; their chemistry is not great.

David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) was not well developed, especially if the plan is to turn this character into a formidable villain for future Aquaman movies. I was static to see Dolph Lundgren (King Nereus); it is pretty neat seeing iconic action stars from my childhood showing up in mainstream movies.

There are a bunch of far fetch scenes that seemed unnecessary; for instance, there is a scene with an Octopus playing drums….I didn’t think it was needed or in any way useful.

So far, Wonder Woman (2017) has been the best of all the DC Extended Universe movies. I’m looking forward to HBO releasing the Snyder cut of Justice League, which will be an epic streaming event.

Despite the lazy dialogue and the heavy CGI action sequences, Aquaman is a fun and enjoyable movie worth watching, mainly due to Jason Momoa’s performance. Overall, Aquaman is a welcome addition to this ever-evolving but highly flawed DC Extended Universe.

Two out of Five Popcorn Bags

AQUAMAN (2018)

*MOVIE RECAP: JUSTICE LEAGUE

I don’t get excited when new superhero movies come out as much as I used to — it took me a few years to make time to watch this movie, and I actually ended up liking it better than I expected. Look, at the end of the day, I’m still a huge fanboy when it comes to all comic book movies, but I don’t take them that seriously anymore; I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

This is the closest a DC Extended Universe movie (DCEU) has come to a MARVEL movie. I think critics were way too harsh on this movie when it first came out, and it did not deserve all the abuse it received. I think I’m comfortable enough to say that I actually enjoy DCEU movies more than most Marvel movies (in terms of tone and execution).

The vibe and tone of Justice League are slightly lighter than previous DCEU movies…. And even though I prefer and appreciate the darker tone films from all the DCEU movies, I find myself welcoming the lighter vibe Justice League brings.

This version of BATMAN (Ben Affleck) is pretty damn good; Affleck’s performance has grown on me, especially as Bruce Wayne. WONDER WOMAN (Gal Gadot) continues to be the best-written character here, explaining why she wasn’t around for a hundred years since the events of the 2017 Wonder Woman movie made sense. Disappointingly, Wonder Woman 1984 pissed away all the solid groundwork done developing this character. SUPERMAN (Henry Cavill) was excellent; most of his scenes worked well for me, especially as he battled Steppenwolf. Jason Momoa was born to play AQUAMAN. (read my Aquaman recap on this blog).

FLASH (Ezra Miller) is funny, engaging, and very relatable. CYBORG (Ray Fisher) is a compelling character that needs his own movie at some point. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) was okay; her character didn’t do much, and I wanted to see more from her. STEPPENWOLF (Ciaran Hinds), as a villain, was an underdeveloped character, and I felt like there was no fundamental necessity to go full CGI here. Some people hated the PARADEMONS, but I didn’t mind them; I thought they were cool. There are some emotional moments, mainly from Martha Kent (Diane Lane). The post-credit scene with LEX LUTHOR (Jesse Eisenberg) was necessary for purposes of continuity.

Although there are some obvious flaws with this movie, JUSTICE LEAGUE is a highly entertaining addition to the DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE. There is a ton of potential here to build up future films around. I’m incredibly excited and curious to see how the Snyder cut will differ from this version.

Two out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿

Justice League (2017)

*TV SERIES RECAP: HUNTERS

Hunters is an over the top TV series that brings an alternate version of history with some real historical facts sprinkled throughout its fictional plot. The show takes on historical facts like the Holocaust, World War II, and Operation Paperclip — it takes all those historical facts, and it reimagines them as a TV series along similar lines as Inglorious Basterds.

The opening scene in the first episode is outstanding, and it gives you a taste of what to expect from this show in terms of over the top violence. The entire first episode feels like a movie — in the sense that the first episode is about 1 hour and 29 minutes long — All the remaining episodes are roughly about an hour.

Set in 1978, New York City, we have young Jonah (Logan Lerman), who works at a comic bookstore and lives in Brooklyn with his Holocaust-survivor grandmother Ruth (Jeannie Berlin). Ruth is murdered inside their home; Jonah witnesses the murder but fails to stop the killer. At her funeral, Jonah begins to suspect that grandma had a separate life from the one she lived at home. Soon, he discovers that grandma was a secret member of an underground Nazi-hunting organization.

We get to see how Nazi war criminals and many Nazi scientists were brought to the United States under US government protection and given high-level jobs after World War II. And now, years after the war ended, these same Nazi war criminals are being recognized by Holocaust survivors in random cities throughout the United States.

Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) leads a team of Nazi Hunters, hell-bent on tracking down leads and executing justice in violently imaginative ways. Al Pacino seems to be having a blast with this role. I enjoyed his performance.

The Nazi hunters’ team is an interesting one; we have the fantastic husband/wife team of Murray (Saul Rubinek) and Mindy (Carol Kane); their backstory is super compelling. Roxy (Tiffany Boone) is a foxy brown type of character. Lonny (Josh Radnor) is a cool, sophisticated, and fun-loving actor who specializes in disguises. Joe (Louis Ozawa), a combat expert and Vietnam vet who has PTSD. Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvaney) a nun and a former British agent. This nun character is the most mysterious in the group. She seems to be regularly reporting on the progress the Nazi hunters are making to someone on the phone.

We also have Millie (Jerrika Hinton), an FBI agent. She begins to connect the dots between the random killings of German-born US citizens and realizes that all these killings are somehow connected. All of the victims seem to have a mysterious past—she soon discovers that these murder victims were former Nazi war criminals living in the US. In some cases, they were living under new identities given to them by the US government.

The Colonel (Lena Olin) and Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker) are excellent villains. However, the character by the name of Travis (Greg Austin) stands out as one of the most remorseless and terrifying villains of recent memory.

Hunters is a daring show that goes into dark places; It deals with white supremacy rising from the shadows and how these Nazis had a plan to infiltrate US institutions of government and fields of science, politics, religion, technology, and business. There is a long game at play here for these Nazis, in which they will destroy the United States from the inside and give rise to a fourth Reich.

In a nutshell, Hunters is a well-made and entertaining comic book style show about Nazi hunters. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies or even the Kingsman movies, you will probably appreciate what this show attempts to do. I enjoyed it and looking forward to season 2.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

HUNTERS (2020). Streaming on Prime.