Richard and CTV NewsChannel anchor Andrea Bain talk about the latest movies coming to VOD and streaming services, including the new Spike Lee Vietnam epic “Da 5 Bloods,” the Pete Davidson semi-autobiographical story “The King of Staten Island” and the latest from Disney+, “Artemis Fowl.”
Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch during the pandemic including the CTV special “Change & Action: Racism in Canada,” a ninety minute national dialogue on how Canadians can take action against systemic racism. the Janet Jackson film “Poetic Justice,” streaming for free on CTV.ca and Spike Lee’s new movie, “Da 5 Bloods.”
Richard and “CP24 Breakfast” host Bill Coulter have a look at some special streaming opportunities and television shows to help fill the hours during the pandemic, including a free stream of “Ali” starring Will Smith at ctv.ca, a new Anna Kendrick show called “Love Life” on HBOMax, a Disney+ and chill experience called Zenimation and the new Spike Lee film “Da 5 Bloods” on Netflix.
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the new Spike Lee joint “Da 5 Bloods,” the Pete Davidson semi-autobiographical story “The King of Staten Island,” the absurdist dramedy “It Must Be Heaven” and the latest from Disney+ “Artemis Fowl.”
Spike Lee movies are like onions. Peel off a layer and there’s a new one beneath. Take that off and another reveals itself. His latest, “Da 5 Bloods,” now streaming on Netflix, is even more multi-faceted than usual. The director calls it a “gumbo,” a rich stew of varied ingredients. It’s a two-and-half-hour Vietnam War legacy film featuring a Trump supporter in a leading role. It’s a searing look at how African American soldiers fought in a war for a country that didn’t support them and it’s an adventure film, à la “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” with action scenes and even buried treasure.
Most of all, it feels like a film that only Spike Lee, the auteur, could have made.
The story centers on the Bloods, MAGA-man Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Eddie (Norm Lewis), four African American vets who return to Vietnam almost fifty years after their last tour of duty. They hope to recover the remains of, “the best damn soldier who ever lived,” their Squad Leader, Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman).
It’s a noble mission indeed, but there’s more. A lot more in the form of CIA gold bars intended as bribes for the Vietnamese government but hijacked by the Bloods and hidden in the jungle. “We’ve been dying for this country from the very get,” says Norman in a flashback. “We give this gold to our people.”
It seems like a foolproof plan but almost as soon as the men land in Vietnam they are beset with problems, some new, some a product of their past. “Being back here is not easy,” says Paul.
“Da 5 Bloods” weaves archival footage of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis and Kwame Ture among others, and 60s era music into the narrative, creating a vivid portrait of time and place. Add to that a study of the effects of PTSD, political corruption and some interpersonal politics between the main characters—including Jonathan Majors as Paul’s estranged son David—action scenes and a slimy banker (Jean Reno) and you have a big, bold movie that aims to entertain and reckon with social issues that linger years after the Vietnam War ended.
“Da 5 Bloods” explores areas of the African American experience in Vietnam that have never been exclusively the subject of a film. Lee and co-writer Kevin Willmott, with whom the director shared an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” have crafted a poignant, if slightly overlong, look at the lasting effects of fighting a war for freedoms the Bloods and their counterparts were being denied at home. “Black GI,” taunts propagandist Hanoi Hannah (Van Veronica Ngo) on Radio Hanoi, “is it fair to serve more than the white Americans who sent you here?”
Lee makes daring choices—not de-aging the older actors in the flashback scenes, for instance—but never obscures the film’s central message. “Every time I walk out my front door I see cops patrolling my neighborhood like it’s some kind of police state,” Stormin’ Norman says, circa 1971. “I can feel just how much I ain’t worth.” The pain and anger in those words, and in this film, is undiminished by the passing years.
Check out episode eighteen of Richard’s new web series, “In Isolation With…” It’s the talk show where we make a connection without actually making contact! Today, broadcasting directly from Isolation Studios (a.k.a. my home office), we meet Clarke Peters, one of the stars of the new Spike Lee joint “Da 5 Bloods.” It’s an adventure movie that also examines the role of African American soldiers in Vietnam and how that conflict affected the rest of their lives. We talk about how he was accused of draft evasion by the FBI, how life during the pandemic has taught us to think about more than just ourselves and why he considers himself a stage actor first and foremost.
Here’s Clarke Peters on being a stage actor: “For those actors who understand the magic of it, we also understand that there’s a great responsibility in it. It is not about your ego. You are not the star. It’s the story that you’re telling, that’s the star, and you tell that story as best as you can. Through the years you find ways to hone your craft, so that you know that if I hold on for just two seconds longer before saying this next word that a tear is going to come up in somebody’s eyes over there, or that the whole audience is going to fall out and laughter. That’s a hell of a power to have and a hell of a responsibility, but also very necessary service for society in the situation that we’re in now.”
Then, we meet photographer and documentary film maker Paul Perrier. As many of us sheltered in place at the beginning of the pandemic Paul grabbed his camera and hit the streets, taking photos of people and their masks. The result is The Toronto Portrait Project, a series of photographs that document the face… or I guess… faces of the pandemic.
Watch the whole thing HERE on YouTube and HERE on ctvnews.ca!
A good alternate title for the new Simon Pegg motivational movie would be “Hector and the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Both movies feature a man in existential crisis, on a journey to find the missing puzzle piece that will improve their lives. Both stories are thick slices of pop psychology, but appealing casts buoy both.
Hector (Pegg) is a psychologist with a tidy uneventful existence. He shares his predictable and safe life with Clara (Rosamund Pike), an ad agency writer who creates names for pharmaceuticals. They chug along happily until one day Hector snaps and berates one of his patients for not being satisfied with her comfortable life. He set out on an archeological dig of sorts, to discover what happiness means to people. Leaving Clara behind he hits the road as the Indiana Jones of Happiness. First stop China.
Echoes of “Eat Pray Love” reverberate in each of Hector’s layovers. From China to Africa to Los Angeles he collects people and theories of happiness—“My secret of happiness is never asking myself if I’m happy,” says a millionaire (Stellan Skarsgård) in China—making notes in his diary along the way.
The movie screams WHIMSY in capital letters from its opening scene of Hector and a dog soaring above the earth in a World War II RAF bi-plane, to the title font to Hector’s diary drawings that come to life to illustrate the story. The presence of Pegg doesn’t dismiss fears of oppressive whimsy either, as he embraces the story’s quirky tone with a performance that feels like the acting 101 textbook definition of repressed British man, all shy glances and apologetic fumbling.
But then, despite the movie’s somewhat smug tone regarding Hector’s ability to fly around the world and expropriate ideology from people he then leaves behind, and the outdated notion that Clara can’t be happy until she has a child, the movie shifts from twee to a slightly less awkward form of twee. When it drops the pop psychology and focuses on Hector and Clara, it works. He’s still an over privileged prat stumbling around the world in search of an elusive concept, but when the movie switches from magic realism to just plain old realism and the floodgates open for him it is hard not to forgive him the journey.
“Hector and the Search for Happiness” feels like Michel Gondry Lite, but when it and Pegg let the whimsy go, it can be an affecting story.