Da 5 Bloods Movie Review

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods shows the filmmaker in peak form with a sprawling and powerful story of war and the residual results on its soldiers. The title characters are a quartet of African-American Vietnam vets and one who didn’t make it out of the jungle. This is a mix of numerous genres – traditional war movie, treasure hunt, and exploration of racial themes to name three. Throughout his career spanning five decades, Lee has never lacked in grand ambition. When he’s in his element, the end product is something to behold. For the majority of the running time here, that holds true.

Following a prologue showing significant moments in the civil rights Vietnam eras, we meet the four soldiers reuniting in Ho Chi Minh City half a century later. They are Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), and Eddie (Norm Lewis). The reasoning for the reunion is two-fold. Norman (played in flashback by Chadwick Boseman) was their squad leader who perished in battle. He was not just their leader in rank, but a mentor who tremendously shaped their overseas experience and beyond. The four remaining Bloods are there to retrieve his remains, but they are also looking to gather a large quantity of gold buried with him.

Da 5 Bloods is in many ways a concentration about what the group left behind. For Otis, this includes a girlfriend and child. For Paul, it’s no less than his sanity. His PTSD is severe and his character is quite a creation. Sporting a MAGA hat and a host of unresolved issues, his son David (Jonathan Majors) unexpectedly makes the trek to the former Saigon to join his unpredictable dad. The part of Paul is a well-constructed character. Yet much credit is due to Lindo, a veteran actor in the role of his career. Lindo delivers a couple of direct to camera monologues as the gold hunt takes unanticipated turns that are potent and riveting. Those moments will likely garner awards buzz for the performer and it’s deserved.

The supporting cast is impressive with Peters and Majors getting the most fleshed out characters behind Lindo’s. Jean Reno turns up as a Frenchman getting his cut of the gold and Melanie Thierry plays an activist dedicated to ridding the Vietnamese landscape of decades old landmines.

As mentioned, the use of flashback is employed and Lee makes a fascinating narrative decision here. While Norm is shown as his younger self, the four other actors are shown as is in the callbacks to wartime. This is a bit jarring at first, but it turns out to be a wise choice. As the story unfolds, we realize that it’s through the lens of their recollections of their hero Norm. The utilization of Irishman style de-aging or younger actors isn’t necessary.

Lee’s previous pic BlacKkKlansman told a tale from decades ago that resonates in 2020 (perhaps slightly more effectively). Same goes for Da 5 Bloods. Lee is an urgent director and we feel it throughout. With a commanding lead performance from Lindo, a fine score from Terence Blanchard, and a fresh take on the genre (s), Bloods is a vital watch.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Da 5 Bloods

Hitting Netflix this Friday, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods had its review embargo lifted and it appears we may have the first major 2020 contender in the Best Picture derby. The drama focuses on a group of African-American Vietnam vets who return to the country. With comparisons to The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Deer Hunter, the pic has a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 87%. Several reviews are raves while others are a bit more mixed in their approach, including complaints about its length and third act.

Most critical reaction notes the timely nature of its subject matter. This is Lee’s follow-up to BlacKkKlansman, which finally earned Lee an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay two years ago and was his first Best Picture nominee (despite an outcry for both 1989’s Do the Right Thing and 1992’s Malcolm X not being recognized). The cast includes Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, and Chadwick Boseman. While the work of Majors and Peters has been highlighted, the performance of Lindo is being called a career best. The veteran is a familiar face to moviegoers in such features as Lee’s own Clockers as well as Get Shorty and Gone in 60 Seconds, among many others. From the sounds of it, Bloods could very well mark his first Academy nod. It is unclear if that will be in the lead or supporting actor race. My hunch is that Supporting Actor is where Netflix will land for the actor, but this is speculative at this juncture.

In addition to Lindo’s vault into the Oscar mix, Da 5 Bloods appears to be a contender in Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and tech races such as Original Score, Editing, and so forth. Last year, Netflix broke into the awards fold with The Irishman and Marriage Story. As of now, Mr. Lee’s latest creation could easily keep that trend going. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: The Lovebirds

In 2017, comedian Kumail Nanjiani had a breakout hit with The Big Sick, a dramedy based on his real life experiences with his wife. An unexpected box office success, the pic even managed buzz for a Best Picture nomination and for Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress. Neither nod materialized and the film’s sole nomination was for its Original Screenplay.

The rom com/murder mystery The Lovebirds teams Nanjiani with his Sick director Michael Showalter once again. It’s out on Netflix today after Paramount moved it to streaming service from an April theatrical date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the pic is generating fairly decent reviews (66% on Rotten Tomatoes) and praise for the chemistry between leads Nanjiani and Issa Rae, the critical reaction doesn’t approach that of Sick (with its 98% Tomato meter). Bottom line: don’t expect the Lovebirds to gather any passion to fly before the radar screen of awards voters. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Oscars Go Streaming

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed the operation of movie theaters for the past two months and that looks to continue into the foreseeable future in many states across the nation. For someone who has a blog that focuses on a lot on Oscar forecasting, this has raised numerous questions. The primary one is: could there really be an Oscar telecast for 2020 pictures next year if there’s little product being released? And I certainly don’t think Sonic the Hedgehog or Birds of Prey will sweep the ceremony in February 2021.

A significant part of the answer to that question was revealed today. The Academy, after an internal Zoom conference, announced that streaming and VOD product will indeed be eligible for Oscar consideration. You may ask – weren’t Netflix and other streamers already being nominated? After all, 2019 saw Best Picture and/or acting nods for The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes. Well, not really. The previous rule was that each streaming entry had to screen in Los Angeles for a one week awards qualifying run. That rule (at least for 2020) has been abolished.

So what does that mean? The uncertainty surrounding the opening of theaters could mean a lot more features hitting Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and any other VOD platforms. We have witnessed this already with Trolls World Tour landing on small screens when it was supposed to hit multiplexes. That’s not all. Just yesterday, Judd Apatow’s latest comedy King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson skipped its theatrical run and opted for a June VOD date. The Lovebirds, which reunites Kumail Nanjiani with his The Big Sick director Michael Showalter, arrives May 22 on Netflix. The Seth Rogen comedy An American Pickle will now premiere on HBO Max.

With today’s announcement, I suspect we could see many Oscar contenders (especially lower budget ones) make the streaming move. And with the uncertainty regarding film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Telluride (typically the launching pads for such content), this could be the easiest way to get such features to the masses around the same time frame.

My Oscar coverage, when it’s available, will continue here!

Daily Streaming Guide: April 5th Edition

Available via Netflix, today’s streaming guide highlights a Depression era gangster pic that took its star out of his typical comfort zone:

2002’s Road to Perdition casts Tom Hanks as a 1930s hitman whose family falls victim to his professional choices. The pic comes from Sam Mendes as the follow-up to his Oscar winning American Beauty. The supporting cast includes Paul Newman in one of his final onscreen appearances, Jude Law, and a pre 007 Daniel Craig (Mendes would direct him later in Skyfall and Spectre).

This was a rather bold choice for everyman Hanks and it paid off with solid reviews and robust box office. If you missed it the first time around, it’s well worth a view.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Daily Streaming Guide: April 2nd Edition

For today’s streaming guide, I focus on what I consider Steven Spielberg’s best picture of the 21st century:

Minority Report was released in 2002 and it’s new to Netflix as of yesterday. Set in 2054, the sci-fi action thriller casts Tom Cruise as the head of a police force that determines “precrimes” – allowing law enforcement the ability to arrest perps before they commit murder. This system turns its head on Cruise when he becomes subject to such an investigation. Costarring Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max Von Sydow, Report is a visual feast with a highly intelligent screenplay. The pic is based on a short story from famed author Philip K. Dick. Such features as Blade Runner and Total Recall have also been based on his works.

While it was a hit upon release, I’ve always felt this doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. I consider it to be the #1 movie of 2002 and the kind of relentless entertainment that its director is celebrated for. If you haven’t caught it (or need a reminder of its quality), I can’t recommend it enough.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 31st Edition

Today’s Streaming Guide bring us an absolute masterclass in filmmaking and acting that is currently available via Netflix:

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is an early 20th century tale of oil mining and greed with a towering and Oscar winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. As Daniel Plainview, a ruthless prospector turned tycoon – Day-Lewis pretty much won the Academy Award as soon as the picture screened for critics. Blood was also victorious in the Cinematography category and deservedly so. The pic also features dynamite supporting work from Paul Dano as a scheming preacher. And there’s a line regarding milkshakes that stands along the hit Kelis track as the best 21st century milkshake references.

Blood continued Anderson’s ascent into greatness after such features as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love. It has since continued with The Master, Inherent Vice, and Phantom Thread (which is headlined by another terrific Day-Lewis role). I have a special place for Boogie Nights, which I considered to be the best movie of the 1990s not named Pulp Fiction. As far as PTA’s output, this ranks second.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 30th Edition

Today’s Streaming Guide focuses on one of the highest quality police procedural thrillers to emerge in recent years and it’s available for viewing on Netflix:

Director David Ayer has most recently been known for working with Will Smith on Suicide Squad and Netflix’s Bright. Prior to that, he specialized in Los Angeles set crime pics. He co-wrote 2001’s Training Day, in which Denzel Washington won the Best Actor Oscar before directing Christian Bale in Harsh Times and Keanu Reeves in Street Kings. 

From the behind the camera, his best of the bunch in my view is 2012’s End of Watch. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, and Anna Kendrick, this is a gritty genre affair made with style and first-rate performances. It performed decently upon initial release. If you haven’t seen it, End is definitely worth the watch.

That does it for today, folks! Until next time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 25th Edition

Two comedies make their way into my Daily Streaming Guide. Also – about the “daily” thing – I’m trying my darnedest to post each day, but sometimes life and work get in the way. I’ll do my best to update as much as possible!

Netflix

1996’s Kingpin from the Farrelly Brothers arrived in-between two of their massive and beloved comedies – Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. This bowling farce starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, and a glorious Bill Murray didn’t receive near as much attention. It’s since turned into a cult favorite and its brand of depraved and often hilarious comedy is well worth a look (for Murray’s hair alone).

HBO Streaming

2004’s Along Came Polly is the romantic tale of ultra cautious Ben Stiller and free spirit Jennifer Aniston. They are responsible for plenty of funny moments, but supporting players Alec Baldwin and especially the late Philip Seymour Hoffman make it even more worthwhile.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 21st Edition

My Daily Streaming Guide rolls along today with three new movies worthy of your binge watching consideration:

Amazon Prime

From 2007, David Fincher’s Zodiac finds the filmmaker in his dark and visually stylish wheelhouse. The man behind Seven and Fight Club meticulously details the case of the Zodiac Killer in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a top-notch cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. (one year before his first appearance as Tony Stark in the MCU).

Netflix

Speaking of stylish, Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive from 2011 has it in spades. It also defies genre placement. Ryan Gosling doesn’t have much dialogue, but this is one of his finest roles as a stunt performer who moonlights in underground criminal circles. A contemplative pic with violent outbursts, Drive is a stunner.

Hulu

On the cinematic front, J.J. Abrams is best known for revitalizing the Star Trek and Star Wars series. His stand-alone 2011 effort Super 8 has a Stranger Things vibe before that landmark show existed. With a heavy Spielberg influence, it would have been right at home being released in 1985. It’s a lot of fun and there’s a humdinger of a trash crash sequence.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…