4

Staff & contributors

One of the most thrilling biographical films to come out of Hollywood in the 2020s, Shaka King's exhilarating take on a truly remarkable leader within the Black Panther Party—and the young man who would eventually be twisted into betraying him—also provides a respectful, honest space to voice out progressive views that still aren't fully embraced in the United States. Much of the film is made up of beautiful, powerful rhetoric, contrasting in fascinating ways with scenes of violence or deception that only remind us how ahead-of-his-time chairman Fred Hampton was and still is. And in a thunderous, Oscar-winning performance, Daniel Kaluuya brings all of Hampton's words roaring to life while still reminding us of how tragically young this inspirational figure was at the time of his death.

But Judas and the Black Messiah tells an equally powerful second story over this one: that of FBI informant William O'Neal who reluctantly agrees to sell Hampton to the feds, and quickly realizes that he's been scammed too. Rivaling—and, arguably, besting—Kaluuya's performance is LaKeith Stanfield, whose tortured and increasingly despairing performance as O'Neal is the stuff of pure Shakespearean drama. Together, both stories ask us what real freedom looks like, and that we believe we can still fight for it.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Algee Smith, Amari Cheatom, Amber Chardae Robinson, Ashton Sanders, Caleb Eberhardt, Chris Hahn, Daniel Kaluuya, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Dominique Fishback, Dominique Thorne, Graham Lutes, Ian Duff, James Udom, Jermaine Fowler, Jesse Plemons, Khris Davis, Lakeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen, Nick Fink, Robert Longstreet, Terayle Hill

Director: Shaka King

In the year of the Netflix TV Show Maniac, another absurdist title stole critics’ hearts. Sorry to Bother You is a movie set in an alternate reality, where capitalism and greed are accentuated. Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta) is a guy called Cassius who struggles to pay his bills. However, when at a tele-marketing job an old-timer tells him to use a “white voice”, he starts moving up the ranks of his bizarre society. A really smart movie that will be mostly enjoyed by those who watch it for its entertaining value, and not so much for its commentary. It is like a Black Mirror episode stretched into a movie.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Annie Chen, Armie Hammer, Damion Gallegos, Danny Glover, David Cross, David Fine, Dawayne Jordan, Ed Moy, Eric Jacobus, Forest Whitaker, James D. Weston II, Jermaine Fowler, John Ozuna, Kate Berlant, Lakeith Stanfield, Lily James, Marcella Bragio, Michael X. Sommers, Molly Brady, Omari Hardwick, Patton Oswalt, Robert Longstreet, Rosario Dawson, Safiya Fredericks, Steven Yeun, Terel Gibson, Teresa Navarro, Terry Crews, Tessa Thompson, Thessaly Lerner, Tom Woodruff Jr., Tony Toste, Val Garrahan, W. Kamau Bell, William W. Barbour

Director: Boots Riley

Rating: R

They Cloned Tyrone is a genre-bending gem. It combines Deep State conspiracy theories with sci-fi and social commentary, all while looking like a futuristic 1970s Blaxploitation film. It’s outrageous good fun and pleasing to look at (here is a film that knows how to properly light Black actors), but there are times when it feels too far fetched. The science can get wonky and its commentary on gentrification lacking, but all is forgiven when you have such a strong trio of leads. One of the smartest things They Cloned Tyrone does is pair Boyega with Teyonah Parris, who plays the call girl Yo-yo, and Jamie Foxx, who plays the pimp Slick Charles. They have a fun-loving no-nonsense chemistry about them that makes them easy to attach to and root for. They’re also just very funny, which might be expected of Foxx but it comes as a pleasant surprise for Parris, whose popular turns in Mad Men and WandaVision prove that she’s been severely underutilized as a comic.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Mystery, Science Fiction

Actor: Adam Cronan, Al-Teron, Austin Freeman, Charity Jordan, David Alan Grier, David Shae, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Jamie Foxx, Jason Burkey, Jason Louder, John Boyega, Joshua Mikel, Kiefer Sutherland, Leon Lamar, Megan Sousa, Michael A. Dean, Ryan Dinning, Shariff Earp, Shinar Frazier, Swift Rice, Tamberla Perry, Teyonah Parris, Trayce Malachi

Director: Juel Taylor

Rating: R

Blue Bayou is a powerful film about a Korean-American man threatened with deportation from the only country he has ever known. Antonio LeBlanc is a hard-working mechanic living in a small town in Louisiana with his wife, Kathy, and their young daughter Jessie. Blue Bayou is a beautifully made film with compelling performances from Chon, Vikander, and the rest of the cast. The film is heartbreaking and hopeful, offering a powerful message about the importance of family and belonging. Justin Chon's direction is assured and confident as he captures the beauty of the Louisiana Bayou and aptly conveys Antonio's isolation and loneliness. He brings a strong sense of empathy and humanity to the material.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alicia Vikander, Altonio Jackson, Emory Cohen, Geraldine Singer, Jeremy Sande, Jim Gleason, Justin Chon, Linh Dan Pham, Mark O'Brien, Martin Bats Bradford, Randy Austin, Renell Gibbs, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Susan McPhail, Sydney Kowalske, Sylvia Grace Crim, Tyler Henry, Vondie Curtis-Hall

Director: Justin Chon