It’s Chicago in 1927 and tension’s are rising as Ma Rainey and her band are about to record a song at a a recording session : Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a sublime character study that delves deep into our history and follows a group of black recording artists and their struggles with religion, race and exploitation : Viola Davis once again shows us why she’s regarded as one of the modern greats, and although the wonderful Maxayn Lewis lends her moaning vocals for Ma Rainey it’s Viola’s appearance and mannerisms that gives life to the Mother of Blues, she truly steals the show with her swagger and those big eye’s staring at those around her, she’s a strong woman and those scenes that involve an altercation with a police officer outside the recording studio, Ma demanding that Sylvester gets paid on his own and that Coca-Cola moment before continuing with her set is testiment to her character and belief : the picture is also a poignant reminder of the immense talent of Chadwick Boseman, his turn as troubled trumpet player Levee Green leaves you cold, a chilling virtuoso that has you pondering what could have been, it’s not really a surprise to anybody that knew Chadwick that he actually mastered the trumpet for his part and what a superb performance he turns in, that moment he tells the rest of the band what happened to his mother is so fierce you could hear a pin drop : the rest of Ma Rainey’s band are not too shabby either, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts who’s roles as Toledo, Cutler and Slow Drag respectively add so much depth and balance to the film’s storytelling and along with it’s fine tuned script written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, costume & set design that adds authenticity and it’s searing renditions of Ma’s songs will make your toes tap & heart sing : overall George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a wonderful picture that doesn’t drag it’s heels with unnecessary narrative yet delivers it’s message and gives us the gift of two incredible performances and a small sample of Ma Rainey’s wonderful tunes ★★★★½
The loss of Chadwick Boseman aged 43 is a crushing blow, a movie star who was only just beginning his journey to greatness : playing Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get on Up, T’Challa in Black Panther and most recently Stormin’ Norman in Da 5 Bloods Chadwick was already giving us a new hero on the screen, one to look up to and one to look forward to what they did next : he had a smile that would light up the biggest of screens : RIP Chadwick Boseman
Four African-American vets return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their friend and fallen Squad Leader and the gold he helped them hide – Back in 2013 after watching the Oldboy remake I honestly thought the great Spike Lee maybe past it, possibly spent as a filmmaker and only to be reveared for past glories…. In 2018 he delivered one of the best movies of that year in BlacKkKlansman and today in his first outing with Netflix Spike Lee has once again rolled back the years…. DA 5 BLOODS is not only an exceptional picture but it’s a timely history lesson that’s high on emotion, tense as a butt cheek in a landmine, a riverting adventure romp and one of Lee’s more violent and ambitious movie Joints to date – Rather than the deaging of actors (like Scorsese did in The Irishman) Spike Lee decided on a different and in my opinion more refreshing approach seeing the old guard play their younger selves in the film’s flashbacks which helped the film’s narrative and was exciting to watch, the music from the grand master Marvin Gaye, the message throughout of Love over Hate and shooting on location in Vietnam gave Da 5 Bloods it’s heartbeat…. and did I mention Delroy “Mother Fucking” Lindo in his fourth collaboration with Lee and in my opinion his best, Lindo’s character Paul is an all kinds of messed up, racist war vet that harbor’s a secret, his performance reminds me of Bogey in Sierra Madre as you watch his character slowly unravel in quite a devistating way – Overall there can be no doubt Spike Lee is back making film’s that connect with it’s audience in an entertaining, shocking yet relevant way ★★★★½
Without getting bogged down with the movie vs comic aspect of Civil War & trying to avoid any early reviews or spoilers I decided to visit my local IMAX and see if the Russo Brothers have delivered another entertaining slice of cinema – It took less than 10 minutes before I had my answer, finding myself totally immersed in this world of villains, superhero’s & the carnage that goes with it, I was like a kid in a candy store, the 2hr 30mins runtime flew by and I enjoyed every fun minute of it – there are many reasons why I really enjoyed Captain America: Civil War for a start it’s easily Robert Downey Jr’s best outing as Tony Stark aka: Iron Man, there’s much less comedy from his character and a lot more emotion, he’s hurting and Downey Jr does hurting well, even the die hard fans who dislike Stark will feel for him towards the movie’s finale – Don’t get me started on the movies fight & chase scenes or I could be here drooling all night, let’s just say they’re relentless in pace, high on scale & brimming with destruction simply put the effects are bloody incredible, the battle with Crossbones played by Frank Grillo at the start of the movie whet’s the appetite for what’s to come and boy you won’t be disappointed – The Russo Brothers continuing on from Winter Soldier do such a great job in sucking you in to the personal battles of many of the characters in the movie, you feel invested whilst also feeling slightly intrigued & somewhat excited by the eventual outcome.
Essentially this is like an Avengers movie, so many characters are along for the ride, watching Paul Rudd’s scene stealing Ant-Man and the introduction of a few new characters to the franchise such as Spidey, Black Panther and the villainous Baron Zemo is like movie heaven for us superhero fans, all are perfectly cast & their involvement in the movie’s big action set pieces are considerable and in the case of Spidey adds plenty of humor to proceedings – also wasn’t it great seeing Paul Bettany’s Vision getting more screen time? he’s a fabulous character and in my opinion has been underused in previous outings – But for me the main reason why Captain America: Civil War works so well is the exciting and at times explosive dynamic between Iron Man and Captain America these two guys respect the hell out of each other but both have different views, neither will back down, leading to a nail biting finale pitting two of the great comicbook superhero’s against each other – Overall: not often do I come away from the cinema having watched a movie that has lived up to it’s hype but Captain America: Civil War does just that – it’s well written, well executed and movie escapism at it’s finest – roll on Infinity War Part 1 can’t wait !! ★★★★½