Today, along with the trailers for Shang-Chi and Annette, we also got the trailer for The Space Between as well.
In this film, a young record company employee is sent to try to get an eccentric and washed-up rock star to break his contract. The rock star is played by Kelsey Grammer, which is …. well, it’s interesting casting. Grammer can sing but he still doesn’t seem like the former rock star type. Then again, who would have thought that Grammer would have been perfectly cast as a gangster nicknamed The Rumble? Seriously, I dare anyone to say anything about Grammer’s performance in Money Plane.
Anyway, here’s the trailer for The Space Between. This film opens on April 23rd and will start streaming on June 15th.
There was also the trailer for Annette, an upcoming French musical that stars Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver! Annette is due to be the opening film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. According to the film’s press kit, “The film tells the story of a provocative stand-up comedian (Adam Driver) and his wife, a world-famous soprano (Marion Cotillard). Their glamorous life takes an unexpected turn when their daughter Annette is born, a girl with a unique gift.”
So, there you go. A comedian. A soprano. And a girl with a unique gift. I’ll watch Cotillard and Driver in anything. Here’s the trailer!
Judas and the Black Messiah is currently an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song, and Best Supporting Actor. (In a move that left quite a few people feeling confused, the Academy nominated both of the film’s leads — LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya — in the supporting category.) In detailing how, in 1969, Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (played by Kaluuya) was assassinated by the FBI and the Chicago police, it tells a true story that should leave any viewer, regardless of political orientation, shaken.
What’s interesting is that, in several Oscar categories, Judas and the Black Messiah will be competing with another fact-based film about 60s activists, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7. In fact, Hampton briefly appears as a character in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and a key scene involves lawyer William Kunstler and Black Panther Bobby Seale discussing Hampton’s murder. Of course, in Sorkin’s film, the Black Panthers don’t get to say much. They appear in the background of the courtroom a few times and it’s hard not to feel that Sorkin is largely using them as props, as a way to let us know that he and the Chicago 7 are all on “the right side of history.” After the scene in which he learns that Hampton’s been murdered, Bobby Seale basically disappears from the film and the rest of The Trial of the Chicago 7 focuses on seven rich white guys debating whether or not it’s better to be serious while protesting or to try to have fun. I point this out not merely to criticize The Trial of the Chicago 7 but also to illustrate that, though they deal with the same time period and the same themes, Judas and the Black Messiah and The Trial of the Chicago 7 are as different as night and day. Judas and the Black Messiah is an angry and unapologetically political film, one that reveals just how anodyne The Trial of the Chicago 7 actually is. If The Trial of the Chicago 7 is carefully calculated to be a crowd pleaser, Judas and the Black Messiah is about leaving the audience outraged. If The Trial of Chicago 7 is about ultimately assuring the audience that the system works even if it is occasionally corrupted, Judas and the Black Messiah is a call to burn the entire system down.
The film opens with Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) getting arrested for both auto theft and impersonation of a federal officer in Chicago. He’s approached by FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). Mitchell has an offer for Bill. Mitchell is willing to have the charges dropped if Bill will agree to work undercover for the FBI. Bill accepts Roy’s offer and is assigned to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. The chapter is currently led by Fred Hampton, a charismatic revolutionary who has been going around to all of the other activist groups and gangs in Chicago and building a multi-racial coalition, one dedicated to social justice and economic equality. Under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen, made up to look as grotesque as possible), the FBI is looking to destroy the Black Panthers from within.
Bill agrees to work for the FBI and infiltrate the Black Panther Party. Soon, he not only wins Hampton’s trust but he also works his way up the ranks until he’s promoted to being head of security. He also grows close to Hampton and starts to respond to Hampton’s message of self-determination. However, Mitchell insists that Bill continue to inform on the Panthers, arguing that the Panthers will kill Bill if they ever discover that he’s working with the FBI and also that Hampton himself is a dangerous radical. (Mitchell brags about how he worked to solve the murder of three civil right workers in Mississippi before then comparing Hampton and the Panthers to the KKK.) With Hampton gathering more followers and Hoover demanding that something be done to “neutralize” him, Bill is ordered to betray the man that many have come to view as being the black messiah.
Daniel Kaluuya gives a mesmerizing performance as Fred Hampton. It’s one thing to play a character who everyone insists is a charismatic leader but it’s another thing to give a performance that convinces the audience that the character is a charismatic leader before anyone else has even said a word about him. Kaluuya strides through the film, playing Hampton as a man who knows that he’s destined to change the world. The scenes where he meets with gang leaders and other activist leaders and recruits them into his Rainbow Coalition could have played like simple agitprop (just imagine if Aaron Sorkin had written or directed them!) but Kaluuya is so convincing that you never have any doubt that people actually would abandon their prejudices and their rivalries to follow him. Unlike the quippy activists at the heart of The Trial of the Chicago 7, Kaluuya-as-Hampton actually discusses what his ideology means and also why the system cannot be depended upon to sort itself out. Kaluuya’s Hamtpon challenges not only the film’s villains but also the complacency of the viewers, something that definitely cannot be said of the characters in Aaron Sorkin’s far more comforting film.
LaKeith Stanfield has a difficult role because Bill is a character who most viewers are going to feel ambiguous about but he does a good job of capturing both Bill’s growing consciousness and his growing desperation as he comes to realize that there’s no way to escape the situation in which he’s found himself. Finally, Jesse Plemons is well-cast as Roy Mitchell, who is alternatively threatening and consoling to Bill. A lesser actor would have played Mitchell as just being a straight-up villain but Plemons plays him as someone who truly does believe that he’s one of the good guys, which makes Mitchell’s actions all the more disturbing.
Judas and the Black Messiah is a powerful and angry film. One need not even agree with every bit of Hampton’s ideology to be outraged by the federal government’s efforts to silence his voice and end his life. Judas and the Black Messiah is not expected to win much on Sunday night and, indeed, by nominated both Kaluuya and Stanfield in the same category, the Academy has created a situation in which the two could potentially split the vote and prevent either one from winning. Still, regardless of what it does or doesn’t win this weekend, Judas and the Black Messiah a film that will probably continue to resonate after many of the other nominees have been forgotten.
It seems like there’s a new foursome of Mini Kus! releases from our Latvian friends at Kus! every time I turn around, and trust me when I say that is in no way meant to sound like a complaint. In fact, if they really were putting these out every time a person turned around that would probably be a good thing, because while there’s nothing remotely “uniform” about this now-long-running series of stand-alone comics, they are uniformly interesting and uniformly worth checking out. I’ve made it a habit of reviewing all of ’em within short order of their being published for the past few years now, and that habit continues this week. First up, then : Mini Kus! #95, an intriguing autobio work by the great David Collier bearing the mouthful of a title Before The Pandemic There Was A Touch Football Tourney.
4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.
Today, we wish a happy 91st birthday to Larry Peerce! Now, admittedly Larry Peerce may not be a household name. He got his start in television in the 60s and, after doing a few features and a lot of made-for-TV movies, he pretty much ended his career directing episodes of Touched By An Angel at the turn of the century. Some people might say that’s a comedown from directing movies but there’s a lot of aspiring filmmakers who would love to have an active career spanning three decades. You take your work where you can get it and you do the best that you can with the material that you’ve got available. Nothing will change the fact that, in 1964, Larry Peerce was one of the few directors with the guts to make a film that seriously dealt with racism and interracial marriage. The name of that film was One Potato, Two Potato.
That said, Larry Peerce directed some worthwhile films in his time and, for that reason, it’s time for….
I start every season feeling so optimistic and hopeful that this will be the season that the team will finally get itself together and return to the World Series. Every season, that feeling lasts for a game or two and then it’s back to just taking my victories where I can get them. This season, we’re already in last place in the AL West and my favorite Ranger, Elvis Andrus, is now playing for Oakland. However, as bad as things are here at the start, we’ve still won more games than the Yankees, The Twins, and the Tigers. That’s my little victory. The great thing about baseball is that if you get enough of those little victories, there’s a chance that they’ll eventually turn into a big victory.
Earlier today, I watched an old, black-and-white movie called It Happened In Flatbush. It’s about a baseball team that no one is giving much of a chance. Even though the team isn’t given a name in the film, the film takes place in Brooklyn and, in the 1942, the Dodgers were Brooklyn’s team. The owner of the team, Mrs. McAcvoy (Sara Allgood), has promised all of the team’s fans that the team is going to reward their loyalty by eventually making it to the World Series. Looking for a new manager, she sets her eyes on Frank Maguire (Lloyd Nolan). Maguire used to play for the team until he committed an error that led to a crucial defeat. Now, Frank is managing a minor league team in Texas and everyone thinks that he’s washed up. Mrs. McAvoy knows that Frank has something to prove and she hires him to be her new manager.
Just like the team, no one gives Frank much of a chance but he proves them wrong. He wins over the people of Brooklyn when he stands up for a fan who lived out every baseball lover’s dream of punching an umpire. When Mrs. McAcoy dies and the team is inherited by her daughter (Carole Landis), Frank teaches her all about baseball and Brooklyn and the two of them fall in love. With his team sometimes grumbling about his tough coaching style, Frank tries to lead both the team and an untried pitcher into the race for the pennant.
It Happened in Flatbush is an old movie but I liked it. Of course, I also love baseball so that probably helped because the move loves baseball too. I especially liked the courtroom scene where Frank stood up for every fan who has ever gone overboard supporting their team. He talks about what the team means to the people of Brooklyn and how a victory for the team is a victory for the entire borough. Even today, any baseball fan will be able to relate to what Frank’s saying. I also liked that the movie included a lot of footage of actual baseball games from the 40s.
Mostly, I appreciated the movie because it was a classic underdog story. No one gives the team much of a chance but they prove them wrong. It reminded me that, in baseball, anything can happen and just because your team is struggling now, that doesn’t mean that they can’t make a comeback. Watching It Happened in Flatbush made me realize that there’s hope for my team yet!
It Happened in Flatbush is a movie for those of us who love baseball. It isn’t available on any streaming services but it does sometimes air on the Fox Movie Channel.
Today is Patriot’s Day so let’s celebrate with The Fighting Yank!
Who was the Fighting Yank? He was Bruce Carter III, a proud patriot who was given super powers by the ghost of his ancestor, the original Bruce Carter. The Carters had a long history of fighting for their country. The first Bruce Carter fought in the Revolutionary War. The third Bruce Carter, as the Fighting Yank, went on to fight the Nazis in World War II! After the war ended, the Fighting Yank continued the fight to his fellow citizens safe from enemies both domestic and abroad.
The Fighting Yank had his comic book series, which ran from 1942 to 1948. Here, to celebrate Patriots Day, is The Fighting Yank!
Actor Simu Liu (Meeting Mommy) dropped some teaser images from Entertainment Weekly for Marvel’s upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, where he plays the lead. As I’m unfamiliar with the character, I found myself where I always go for information on Marvel Characters – my hardcover version of The Marvel Encyclopedia.
According to the Encyclopedia, Shang-Chi premiered in Special Marvel Edition #15 back in 1973, and while that version of the character didn’t have any superpowers, the trailer suggests this may be a little different. After all, he was also given an Ultimates treatment (where many Marvel characters were brought up to date with new stories and even new origin variants).
Shang-Chi also stars Awkafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians), Ronny Chieng (Bliss) and Tony Leung (Hero, Hard Boiled), who is trying to pull Shang-Chi back to a world he’s walked away from. Murmurs across the internet say that Leung’s character is tied to the Mandarin (or is the True Mandarin instead of Ben Kingsley’s fake one in Iron Man 3) We’ll have to wait and see. The fighting action looks great so far.
Marvel Studios is pushing for a September 3rd release. Whether that is on Disney Plus and in Theatres remains to be seen.
Today’s music video of the day is for My Girl, the third single to be released off of Madness’s debut album, One Step Beyond… This song spent 10 weeks on the UK singles chart, peaking in the third spot. The song was written by Mike Barson, Madness’s keyboardist. Barson has said that the song was somewhat autobiographical and about a man who would rather stay home and watch TV rather than go out or have long conversations with his girlfriend. Barson reportedly wrote the lyrics on the back of a cigarette packet while working as a delivery driver.
This video was shot at the Dublin Castle in Camden, London.