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Josh Reviews Da 5 Bloods

March 17th, 2021
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In Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee’s 2020 film, four Vietnam veterans (played byDelroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.) reunite to travel back to ‘Nam.  Purportedly their mission is to recover and bring home the body of their fallen squad leader, but in fact they’re after a crate of CIA gold that they found and buried back during the war.  I was extremely taken by this film.  (It was one of my favorite movies of 2020!)

First of all: what a cast.  Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr. are each absolutely fantastic as the four surviving “Bloods”.  Delroy Lindo plays Paul, who on the surface seems like the most haunted of the men by his experiences in the war.  Mr. Lindo’s blazing intensity is extremely well-used in the film.  As an audience member I was fearful both for and of Paul from the first moment I laid eyes on him, and wow does Mr. Lindo just crush several key monologues in the film.  I fell in love with Clarke Peters in The Wire and then again in (the beautiful, brilliant, vastly underseen) Treme, and he is marvelous as always here as Otis.  Otis seems to have made most of the arrangements for this return visit to Vietnam, and some of those arrangements seem like they might have been a little sketchy.  Mr. Peters’ innate likability plays nicely against the suspicions the film’s plot raises about Otis.  Norm Lewis plays Eddie, who seems to be the most financially successful of the Bloods, though he is still committed to this mission back into the jungle with his friends (for reasons we discover).  I love how Mr. Lewis makes Eddie the Blood who seems the most out of his element, back in the jungles of ‘Nam.  Then there is Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.; if the movie did nothing more other than to give him a new opportunity to say “sheeeee-it” on film (something which made this fan of The Wire supremely happy), then dayyenu!  That would have been enough.  But he’s got a lot of fun things to do in the film; he might just have been the Blood I most wanted to see get out of this situation intact!  (Though, seriously: that “sheeeee-it” is reason alone to see this film!)  Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Lovecraft Country) is very solid as Paul’s grown-up son David, who finagles his way into being a part oof the men’s mission.

The late, great Chadwick Boseman is tremendous, as he always was, as the Bloods’ dead leader “Stormin” Norman.  Mr. Boseman isn’t in too many scenes, but his role is critical.  We need … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2020 — Part One!

I hope you enjoyed my look back at my favorite TV series of 2020!  And now, let’s dive into my favorite movies of 2020:

15. Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story I was a huge fan of The Ren & Stimpy Show back when it first started airing on Nickelodeon in the early nineties.  Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood’s documentary is an insightful, in-depth look back at the creation of this innovative series.  It’s also an exploration of what went wrong, and why the series burned so brightly but for so short a time.  In addition to taking a deep dive into the creation and production of The Ren & Stimpy Show, the documentary contains extensive interview footage Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, who in recent years has been accused of sexual abuse of two minors.  It’s fascinating and disturbing to hear directly from Mr. Kricfalusi.  Watching this documentary made me very happy, and also very sad.

14.  An American Pickle Seth Rogen plays dual roles as Herschel Greenbaum (frozen in a vat of pickles back in 1919 and awoken in 2020) and his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum.  Watching Seth Rogen play against himself is every bit as fun as you might expect.  It’s a terrific acting performance, and the visual effects are absolutely seamless.  Bravo to director Brandon Trost and his team!  The film is funny, and also, in the end, surprisingly sweet.  I quite enjoyed the way the film embraced the value of Jewish ritual and prayer.  If only the third act was stronger, this film would be much higher on my list.  (The late-in-the-film plot twist in which Herschel started getting into trouble for saying lots of inappropriate-in-2020 things might have seemed funny on paper, but in execution it spoiled my connection with the character and enjoyment of what had been a great film.  The film is still worth seeing — that’s why it’s on my list! — but those third act problems keep it from greatness, in my opinion.)  (Click here for my full review.)

13.  Da 5 Bloods I thoroughly enjoyed Spike Lee’s latest film, in which four Vietnam veterans reunite to travel back to ‘Nam.  Purportedly their mission is to recover and bring home the body of their fallen squad leader, but in fact they’re after a crate of CIA gold that they found and buried back during the war.  The cast is spectacular: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr. are fantastic as the four surviving “Bloods”, and the late great Chadwick Boseman is tremendous, as he always was, as their dead leader “Stormin” Norman.  The Vietnam caper aspect of the story … [continued]