‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ Film Review: Stirring Debut Explores Male Friendship and Gentrification

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Calling “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” a love letter to the city would oversimplify the ambivalent relationship that director Joe Talbot and star and co-writer Jimmie Fails, best friends since early adolescence, have with their rapidly transforming hometown.

Their mutual feature debut, which had its world premiere on Saturday afternoon at the Sundance Film Festival, seeks to dissect the nostalgia and frustrations about a place that no longer feels entirely like home.

First, a street preacher (along with Emile Mosseri’s stirring score) announces the arrival of a whimsical rhapsody where all the magic radiates from the central friendship. On screen, Fails portrays a fictionalized version of himself, in which his most loyal comrade is not Talbot but another black man, Montgomery (Jonathan Majors).

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Striking compositions (courtesy of prolific DP Adam Newport-Berra, “Barry”) highlight the emblematic architecture of San Francisco. The delicate quality of the lighting choices and hues — in production design and costumes — that dominate the film add an evocative timelessness to the entire affair. Yet these are not picture-postcard views; the urban images here will be more familiar to locals than to tourists or transplants.

For these homegrown residents witnessing the voracity of gentrification and being on the losing end of it, the possibility of displacement is not farfetched, not unlike characters in another Bay Area buddy comedy, “Blindspotting.” Regardless, Jimmie, who has been living in Mont’s tiny bedroom for an extended stay, dreams of repossessing the Victorian house his family once lived in, one he insists was built by his grandfather in 1946. Subsequently, when the owner is suddenly uprooted, he and Mont move in illegally.

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Aside from exploring the housing crisis benefiting developers and startups, “Last Black Man” hones in on male friendship from the standpoint of two young guys whose fraternal bond surpasses any need for the posturing associated with toxic masculinity. These dudes love each other wholeheartedly and in all their vulnerability. When they embrace, there is no fear of a hug lasting too long, or of tears flowing.

That sincere affection comes through thanks to Majors’ and Fails’ involved performances. To balance out the more affecting notes of their work, they also bring a childlike playfulness that suffuses their interactions when luck intervenes in their favor. Intrigued by the behavior of other black men their age who hang out near the appropriated property, Mont, a sensitive artist and writer, tries to reach out to them and indirectly comments on their aggressive banter that’s more performance than inherent vice. Those fashionably dressed macho men inevitably crumble at the news of a tragic death.

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Fragility remains taboo for men particularly around other men, but Talbot’s movie warns about the destructive consequences of labels that restrict people from being fully themselves. “People aren’t one thing,” Jimmie exclaims in a tense exchange with Mont during an improvised stage play.

The pair’s future ambitions beyond their immediate conundrum are never discussed at length, and neither is their past. Mont is unlikely to leave the home where his blind grandfather (Danny Glover) lives, while Jimmie can’t conceive of an existence outside of San Francisco.

Nevertheless, the daunting realization that the house he cherishes may be out of reach could be an ultimatum to life as he knows it. That internal confrontation about his identity without the city is what fuels his pursuit for something to appease his need for feeling grounded. If San Francisco is no longer what it used to be, can Jimmie be who he’s always been?

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Damon Wayans Says He’s Quitting Fox’s ‘Lethal Weapon’ in December (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Damon Wayans says he is “quitting” Fox drama “Lethal Weapon” in December after wrapping on the first 13 episodes of Season 3.

“I’m going to be quitting the show in December after we finish the initial 13 [episodes],” he said in a video interview with Electronic Urban Report. “I’m a 58-year-old diabetic and I’m working 16-hour days.”

“Like Murtaugh said, ‘I’m too old for this,’” Wayans added, channeling his character, Roger Murtaugh, who was played in the “Lethal Weapon” movies by Danny Glover.

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The father of “Happy Together” star Damon Wayans Jr. said that he plans to “return to the stage” to “try to find my smile again.”

“This has been very hard. Especially last week,” he said. “My mother had surgery, my daughter had surgery, and I had to look ‘em both in the eye and go, ‘I can’t be there.’ It’s hard for me to play this loving, supportive father, husband, friend on TV and be the guy in life that’s telling everybody, ‘I can’t, I gotta work.’”

“You have to look yourself in the eye and go, ‘Who are you?’ And it can’t all be about work. And I’m from a big family, a loving family and I haven’t seen them. All the family gatherings — I’m too tired or I can’t because it conflicts with work,” he said. “I have seven grandkids. I’ve been missing recitals and graduations. To me, it’s just not worth it. There’s a better way to live life.”

Also Read: Clayne Crawford Tells ‘My Side’ of ‘Lethal Weapon’ On-Set Drama: ‘Hollywood Is Very Sensitive’

Watch the video above.

Fox and “Lethal Weapon” studio Warner Bros. both declined TheWrap’s requests for comment on this story.

Wayans said he is scheduled to shoot straight through until Dec. 21 or Dec. 22.

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The small-screen version of “Lethal Weapon” has been marred with casting issues.

Wayans’ former co-star Clayne Crawford was fired from the Fox drama and his character killed off after on-set clashes between the two nearly led to its cancellation. In June, footage surfaced of the actors exchanging expletives over an injury Wayans sustained on an episode Crawford was directing. In another incident, Crawford was caught losing his temper during a scene disrupted by background noise. Two months before that video leaked, Crawford apologized for his behavior, saying he’d “been reprimanded twice during the past two seasons of ‘Lethal Weapon.’”

Crawford, who played Riggs (Mel Gibson’s role from the movies), has been effectively replaced by “American Pie” alum Seann William Scott in a newly created role. Fans have not responded favorably to the new partnership, as evidenced by declining Nielsen ratings.

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Oprah on Quincy Jones (aka Q): ‘There’s Only One Legend Known Far and Wide by a Single Letter’

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14 Perfect, Over-the-Top Lines From ‘Predator’ Movies (Photos)

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All 6 ‘Predator’ Movies Ranked, Including ‘The Predator’

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‘Sorry to Bother You’ Film Review: Boots Riley’s Ambitious Debut Throws a Lot at the Wall

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

What a movie has to say can be so important that we forgive its excesses in the telling. Whether it was Jean-Luc Godard in the 1960s (or his admirer Gregg Araki in the 1990s), their sprawling, messy movies brought up issues and ideas that other movies didn’t, so even if their films weren’t slick or tidy, they throbbed with a shaggy vitality.

That’s the kind of energy that first-time feature director Boots Riley brings to “Sorry to Bother You,” an outrageous satire that swings for the fences — in about 26 different directions — and even if every hit doesn’t clear, audiences will know they’ve seen something provocative, funny, impolite, meaningful and aimed squarely at the 2018 zeitgeist.

With “The First Purge” in theaters, and “Blindspotting” and “BlackkKlansman” on the near horizon, “Sorry to Bother You” becomes part of an exciting new wave of black cinema, one that’s not afraid of using humor and genre tropes to say real, damning things about the state of the United States and its profoundly toxic history of dealing with its citizens of color. (And by “history,” I mean up to and including this very second.)

Watch Video: ‘Sorry to Bother You’ Trailer Shows Lakeith Stanfield as Un-Woke Telemarketer

While it’s not as overstuffed as “Blindspotting,” this is definitely a new director cramming a lot of ideas into one movie. Where “Blindspotting” overdoes its rhetorical flourishes, “Sorry” leans toward science fiction in a way that exceeds Riley’s grasp, but those surreal touches — Riley’s Oakland is both as familiar and otherworldly as Alex Cox’s L.A. in “Repo Man” — underscore the points he’s making.

Lakeith Stanfield stars as Cassius Green, an underemployed man who gets a gig as a telemarketer. (When Peter Weller made sales calls in “The New Age,” he appeared in the same room as the people he was phoning; Riley one-ups that idea by having Cassius literally crash through the ceiling, still at his desk, into people’s kitchens.) It’s not going well for him, until co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) advises him to put on a “white voice”; when Cassius starts using one, we hear the words of David Cross coming out of his mouth.

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His success gets him kicked upstairs to the “power callers” office, but of course, there’s a catch; Cassius is now plying his trade on behalf of a nefarious corporation run by Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), who has made a fortune on a “live and work” labor force that looks an awful lot like slavery. As Cassius sells out for success, he becomes a viral video sensation after crossing a picket line, alienates his old friends, and risks losing girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). (Detroit is no stranger to code-switching; her performance art involves using a white voice of her own, provided by Lily James.)

The cast delivers on Riley’s vision, making the absurd seem real and vice versa. Stanfield radiates a low-key sweetness and empathy which makes us follow Cassius down the film’s twisted trails, and Thompson brings the eccentric, sexy Detroit to life as far more than a stock girlfriend character, even when Riley tosses her into a thoroughly extraneous love triangle subplot with union organizer Squeeze (Steven Yeun).

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Most importantly, these characters live and breathe, which keeps them from being mere megaphones for the bigger issues that the film makes about being black in 21st century America. Even Hammer’s glad-handing cokehead is a delicious portrait of smarmy fake-wokeness, although his character’s ultimate scheme is one of the areas where “Sorry to Bother You” gets lost in trying to achieve the director’s vision. But whatever doesn’t work here is far outweighed by all the things that do, from the inspired costume and set design choices to blistering commentary on race relations and corporatization.

Ultimately, “Sorry to Bother You” does what every great first film should: it heralds the arrival of an exciting new talent and generates enthusiasm for what’s going to be in that second feature.



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History-Making Director Yance Ford Goes From Oscars To Emmys Race With Personal, Political ‘Strong Island’

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‘Old Man & The Gun’ Gets Release Date From Fox Searchlight

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‘Sorry to Bother You’ Trailer Shows Lakeith Stanfield as Un-Woke Telemarketer (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Lakeith Stanfield (“Get Out”) plays a far-from-woke telemarketer in the first trailer to writer-director Boots Riley’s Sundance hit “Sorry to Bother You.”

Stanfield plays a telemarketer in Oakland, California, with self-esteem issues who finds a magical secret to success — sounding more white on the phone — that sends him soaring up the ranks at his company.

But as he rises, he discovers a dark secret behind his company’s M.O., forcing him to choose between holding on to his newfound monetary gains or siding with his activist friends and speak truth to power.

Also Read: Annapurna Acquires Boots Riley’s ‘Sorry to Bother You’

Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick and Steven Yeun also star in the film.

Annapurna Pictures acquired the movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, saying in its official statement, “We f—ing love this movie.”

The film was produced by Forest Whitaker’s Significant Productions, the company behind Ryan Coogler’s debut feature film, “Fruitvale Station.”

Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi of Significant Productions produced the film with Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams, George Rush, and “Fences” producer Charles D. King.

“Sorry to Bother You” hits theaters on July 6. Watch the trailer above.

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Questions of God Challenge a Pentecostal Preacher to Change in ‘Come Sunday’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a deeply moving portrayal of a Pentecostal preacher in the throes of a religious crisis in “Come Sunday,” a glimpse into the soul of a real-life man challenged to change his beliefs.

Based on a reported segment on “This American Life,” “Come Sunday” tells the story of Bishop Carlton Pearson, who for many years led a million-strong Pentecostal ministry based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, until 1998, when he found his faith challenged.

Pearson decided that he no longer believed in hell, no longer believed that only saved Christians would go to heaven and no longer believed that his form of faith was the only one that God could accept. In so doing, he broke with the orthodoxy of his mentor Oral Roberts and threw his ministry into confusion.

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Most of his followers left. Pearson stuck to his newfound beliefs, and paid a dear price.

There are many unusual aspects to this story, not least of which is a reminder that a lot of religious people still believe in an actual hell. The other is the reminder of how rarely Hollywood movies explore faith, and how important a part of the human experience are the deeply held beliefs of the faithful.

Ejiofor fully inhabits the charismatic Pearson and his crisis of conscience, when late in his career he is suddenly unable to believe that the Creator would reject so many of his creations simply because they did not accept Jesus Christ.

Pearson was at the screening and pulled the audience at the Eccles Theater to their feet. He explained that he spent endless hours talking to the screenwriter Marcus Hinchey and director Joshua Marston, laying himself bare.

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“Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame,” he told the crowd. “I undressed in front of this man [Hinchey], just by talking.” And of seeing his own story up on screen he said, “Our heads are spinning, it makes more sense to me, to Gina, to my children, than when we lived it.”

Ejiofor is supported by a strong cast including Martin Sheen as Oral Roberts, Jason Segel as Pearson’s business collaborator Henry, Condola Rashad as his wife Gina and Danny Glover as his uncle Quincy. Lakeith Stanfield (“Get Out”) gives a touching performance as a gay parishioner torn between his devotion to Pearson and his sexual preference.

The movie, which will debut on Netflix, played in the Premieres section of the Sundance Film Festival.

‘Proud Mary’ Film Review: Taraji P. Henson Shoulda Kept Her Good Job in the City

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The action-drama “Proud Mary” exists mostly for its climactic fight sequence, in which Taraji P. Henson’s avenging assassin shoots a bunch of bad guys and occasionally crushes them with her Maserati while a sped-up Tina Turner wails, “We’re rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river.”

It doesn’t really work, not least because the showdown takes place in a rundown warehouse district in Boston, not on a boat. At least the discordance is fun; you can feel the filmmakers reaching for something new, even if the sequence’s ultimate ineffectiveness is so instinctive you can feel it in your bones. Unfortunately, any attempt at freshness is quarantined to those couple of minutes.

“Proud Mary” did not screen for critics, nor should it have. It’s a copy of a copy of a mediocre original, with the drab aesthetics of a TV movie and the emotional hollowness of an infomercial. Ostensibly about a hired killer (the Halloween wigs and running-in-stilettos kind) who decides to reclaim her femininity, the picture is sunk by its all-male writing and directing team’s narrow conception of womanhood as lipstick and maternal instincts. (“London Has Fallen” helmer Babak Najafi directs; the screenplay is credited to Steve Antin, John Stuart Newman, and Christian Swegal.) Being a mercenary has never looked so cheesy.

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We’re rarely allowed inside Mary’s head, so every major decision — like the one to leave her adoptive crime family — is a head-scratching surprise. The POV character is preteen Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston, “Feed the Beast”), a black orphan who delivers drugs for an Eastern European gangster named Uncle (Xander Berkeley).

Mary executed Danny’s father a year ago, so she guiltily keeps tabs on the little boy like any decent person who makes her living murdering people would. When Danny ends up on the streets after falling out of his boss’s favor, she brings the child to her home, bumps off Uncle, and inadvertently starts a gang war.

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Henson and Winston do share a few moments of mutual cautious vulnerability, which gives the lead-up to the inevitable revelation that Mary orphaned him some desperately needed frisson. But Mary is mostly occupied carrying out the orders of her employer/surrogate father Benny (a stilted Danny Glover) and his smitten stepson Tom (Billy Brown, “How to Get Away with Murder”) while figuring out how to quit the slaying biz.

Far from the Blaxploi-liciousness promised by the marketing, “Proud Mary” is ponderously melodramatic when not mind-numbingly bland. Then there are the Filmmaking 101 mistakes, like the choppy editing and inept lighting, which excessively cut up the performances or prevent us from making out facial expressions altogether. The action scenes are so aloof and stylized that they primarily serve to highlight the desperate heart-tugging of the rest of the film.

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But the greatest disappointment may be Henson’s squishy, physically unconvincing performance. We’re supposed to believe that Mary is a killing machine with a heart of gold, but, I dunno, that’s not a thing? Henson has Mary give away every lie on her face, and the actress doesn’t move like a highly trained athlete in her action scenes. Were they to meet, Cookie Lyon (Henson’s “Empire” character) would devour Mary, then toss off a delightfully catty bon mot about her predictable wardrobe. (“Another sheath dress, Boo Boo Killy?”)

I’d hoped “Proud Mary” would give us a new heroine worth rooting for. All it gave me was a laugh of recognition, when the woman in front of me at the Thursday night screening threw up her hands in disbelief at the ending.



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‘Lethal Weapon’ 5? Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Dick Donner Exploring It At Warner Bros.

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Broad Green To Release ‘The Good Catholic’ In Select Theaters

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