Review: ‘Dear…’ Apple Tv+ new series is coming this Friday!

Dear…

One person’s story can change the world. From Emmy-winning filmmaker R.J. Cutler, this ten-part docuseries profiles game-changing icons and the people whose lives they’ve inspired.

 

Dear… is a brand new docuseries featuring letters to some of the most influential people of our time. These fan letters affect the reader as profoundly as the author. ‘DEAR…’ explores the histories of our subjects, what inspired them to be artistic, brave, and to step into the unknown. Like each letter illustrated, the series is one of a kind.

Episode 2:

Lin-Manuel Miranda understood that if you don’t tell your story, someone will do it for you in a way that might not be as authentic. He talks about creating In The Heights and literally changing the face and sound of musical theatre. He learned how to say, “No”, and how to wait for the right opportunity. Finally, Latinos were able to see themselves onstage. His fans’ letters speak to the ability to celebrate their heritage. Wait until you see how and where he shares the first 16 bars from Hamilton. Through this show and his subsequent speech at the Tony Awards, he gave renew voice to the LGBTQA+ community. Love is love is love is love is love.

Episode 6:

Jane Goodall is a huge figure for someone so small in real life. What she has done for research and extinction awareness is a gift to the Earth. In her Dear… episode, her letters tell the stories of other people and their journey to protect the planet and its creatures. Jane’s love of animals and Tarzan inspired her to study Africa. Footage of Goodall in 1960 in Tanzania in search of chimpanzees is gorgeous. Thus began her life’s work. Her fans span generations, creating foundations, becoming conservation activists and journalists, mentors, and environmentally progressive teens. Her message through Roots and Shoots is about encouraging each child to be part of the solution and have the courage to raise awareness to those who don’t understand the effect humans have on climate.

Episode 7:

Big Bird, yes our giant 8-foot tall Sesame Street herald, has his very own episode of Dear… Big Bird is technically only 6 years old, but he’s been around since the incarnation of Jim Henson and PBS’ children’s series in 1969. Children follow the social-emotional growth of someone just like them. In 1982, the actor who played Mr. Hooper passed away, and Sesame Street used it as an opportunity to teach young kids about death. Whenever major events happen in the world, Sesame Street deals with them head-on using Big Bird as their universal child. He shows the same vulnerability that a viewer would. His letters are from the adults that grew up with him. With 2 toddlers of my own, we watch Big Bird learn new lessons every day. He teaches them how to be a good friend, how it’s ok to make mistakes, and how to be accepting of those who are different from us. Now that Sesame Street has Julia, a character with autism, my connection with Big Bird is stronger than ever. I am a Mom with a child on the spectrum. He has taught us that being yourself is the best way to be, that would celebrate how special and unique each of us truly is. In a way, this review is my very own letter saying Thank You for continuing to teach us all.

DEAR… also showcases the lives and letters of Spike Lee, Aly Raisman, Misty Copeland, Oprah Winfrey, Yara Shahidi, Jane Goodall, Stevie Wonder, and Gloria Steinem. The beautiful juxtaposition of the authors’ letters dramatized while reading them is stunning. You’ll have chills. The show is hopeful and real. It’s incredibly well done. It’s a series we need right now, in this moment of history. DEAR… can be seen beginning June 5th in its entirety on Apple TV+.

I’m Baaaaaack….and Here’s My Top 50 of the Decade

Hello all! It’s been nigh on four years since I last dropped some knowledge on you here at Reel News Daily. I went off and got a Master’s degree, new job and all that, but have still been rocking films from all over the world. I’m happy to be back in the fold here at Reel News Daily and look forward to contributing more this year. Don’t you feel lucky?

So, I figured my phoenix rising from the ashes post should be something that might start a little conversation – my Top 50 films of the last decade. There were so many great films to choose from, which made this list very difficult. After two days of whittling it down and moving films around, I feel confident with what I decided on. I’m sure I missed a few of your favorites, but this is my list so you’ll just have to deal with it.

Here we go:

50) Shoplifters (2018) dir. by Hirokazu Koreeda
49) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) dir. by Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman
48) Gone Girl (2014) dir. by David Fincher
47) A Hidden Life (2019) dir. by Terrence Malick
46) Annihilation (2018) dir. by Alex Garland
45) Under the Skin (2013) dir. by Jonathan Glazer
44) Her (2013) dir. by Spike Jonze
43) The Favourite (2018) dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos
42) Take Shelter (2011) dir. by Jeff Nichols
41) Leviathan (2012) dir. by Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel
40) Upstream Color (2013) dir. by Shane Carruth
39) Death of Stalin (2017) dir. by Armando Iannucci
38) Columbus (2017) dir. Kogonada
37) Holy Motors (2012) dir. by Leos Carax
36) Shame (2011) dir. by Steve McQueen
35) Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010) dir. by Edgar Wright
34) Midnight in Paris (2011) dir. by Woody Allen
33) Stories We Tell (2012) dir. by Sarah Polley
32) Cold War (2018) dir. by Pawel Pawlikowski
31) Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) dir. by George Miller
30) Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) dir. by Ethan & Joel Coen
29) The Look of Silence (2015) dir. by Joshua Oppenheimer
28) We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) dir. by Lynne Ramsay
27) BlacKkKlansman (2018) dir. by Spike Lee
26) First Reformed (2017) dir. by Paul Schrader
25) Carol (2015) dir. by Todd Haynes
24) Winter’s Bone (2010) dir. by Debra Granik
23) Citizenfour (2014) dir. by Laura Poitras
22) Animal Kingdom (2010) dir. by David Michôd
21) A Separation (2011) dir. by Asgar Farhadi
20) Meek’s Cutoff (2010) dir. by Kelly Reichardt
19) La La Land (2016) dir. by Damien Chazelle
18) Phantom Thread (2018) dir. by Paul Thomas Anderson
17) The Lobster (2015) dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos
16) Calvary (2014) dir. by John Michael McDonagh
15) Best of Enemies: Buckley Vs. Vidal (2015) dir. by Robert Morgan & Morgan Neville
14) Looper (2012) dir. by Rian Johnson
13) Frances Ha (2013) dir. by Noah Baumbach
12) Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) dir. by Benh Zeitlin
11) Lady Bird (2018) dir. by Greta Gerwig
10) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) dir. by Ana Lily Amirpour
9) Moonlight (2016) dir. by Barry Jenkins
8) Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) dir. by Jim Jarmusch
7) Zero Dark Thirty (2012) dir. by Kathryn Bigelow
6) The Tree of Life (2014) dir. by Terrence Malick
5) You Were Never Really Here (2017) dir. by Lynne Ramsay
4) Ex Machina (2014) dir. by Alex Garland
3) Melancholia (2011) dir. by Lars Von Trier
2) The Act of Killing (2012) dir. by Joshua Oppenheimer

1) The Master (2012) dir. by Paul Thomas Anderson

So there you have it. It was a tough job, but I was happy to do it. Here are a few that nearly made the list: Everybody Wants Some!! (underrated Richard Linklater that more people should watch), Tomas Alfredson’s slow burn spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Paul Thomas Anderson’s hippie noir adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. Admittedly, it was hard to weave many of the films from 2019 into the list as they’ll need to sit me a longer. I will say that Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story nearly edged their way on.

Here’s to hoping that the next ten years brings as many great films as the last ten have.

Jeremy’s Review: Spike Lee’s “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” a Nod to Indie Roots, But Ultimately Falls Short on Execution

Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus bd

Spike Lee is a lot like Stanley Kubrick to me in that they are both hit or miss directors that can wow me with one film and completely lose me with another. I can’t think of two directors that can make my opinion of their work swing from liking to disliking as quickly. It’s been since Lee‘s 2002 film 25th Hour that I’ve felt he lived up to what he gave with his masterpiece Do the Right Thing. Since then, it’s been a series of misfires and almost-theres. So, when I had the chance to see Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, his remake of Bill Gunn‘s cult classic Ganja and Hess, I will admit I was curious. I had high hopes that his working independently of a studio would capture some of the lightning that was bottled back in the 90s. Unfortunately, this film fell more in the Oldboy (which was an absolute mess) camp than his He Got Game camp.

Da-Sweet-Blood-of-Jesus-Stephen Tyrone Williams

The story is as such: Dr. Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams), a foremost expert on African cultures, begins a new project with the help of a researcher Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco). After the two meet and have some in depth conversation at Hess’ beautiful Martha’s Vineyard estatel they adjourn for the evening. When an unidentified sound drags Hess out of his house, he finds Hightower wailing high in a tree with a rope around his neck, about to throw himself from the branch on which he sits and kill himself. He is clearly a troubled man and Hess does everything to convince him to keep from committing suicide and it works…for the time being. Later, after further discussing the events of the evening, Hess is convinced that this is a one time thing and that Hightower will recover. Short lived, Hess wakes up to Hightower trying to strangle him. As the two battle back and forth, Hightower grabs a recently unearthed Ashanti dagger (the Ashanti are the major culture in Ghana) and stabs Hess, killing him. Or so we think. Later, Hess wakes up, still alive and apparently well despite the wound from the dagger. However, he is a changed man with an insatiable lust for blood. When he confronts Hightower after rising from the dead, Hightower shoots himself and we see Hess lapping at the blood left behind, sealing his fate. What plays out after this is Hightower’s wife, Ganja (Zaraah Abrahams), arrives on the island looking for her husband as he owes her money. They are on the outs and she just wants to be rid of him. It’s fairly easy to tell what happens after this…Hess and Ganja fall in love, marry and Hess turns her into a bloodlusting fiend just like him. How does all of that play out…well, for that you will need to see the film.

Da-Sweet-Blood-of-Jesus-Zaraah-Swamp-Brush

Tonally, this film is all over the place. It plays like the original (although I will confess I’ve not seen all of it) but with a higher class level of exploitation. The film’s thematic material also runs the gamut – colonialism, race, class. The way it was filmed reminded me so much of Fassbinder‘s Whity, although there is little other reference to it in Da Sweet Blood of Jesus aside from the racial aspects, which Lee has always had a knack for transcribing to the big screen. This is where Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is most successful, even though Lee isn’t terribly subtle with some of his references (e.g. Hightower trying to hang himself in a big tree). I really enjoyed Williams in the lead role, but the acting aside was spotty at best. I also really appreciated that this film didn’t devolve into some ridiculous vampire film. No one will ever do an understated vampire film better than Jim Jarmusch‘s Only Lovers Left Alive in my opinion so Lee was wise not to tread on that territory. The eroticism that was laced  throughout was well earned and avoided the trappings that befall other bloodsucking films. I love that Lee used Kickstarter to fund this film as no studio in their right minds would have funded it. This definitely allowed Lee the license to add content that would never have been allowed otherwise. I applaud his courage for that.

As a whole, this certainly is an interesting film and I may revisit it again. This film has been very hit or very miss with little wiggle room in between with other critics. I think this film is a near miss, but perhaps my opinion of it will change after finishing Gunn‘s film in its entirety. If you are a Spike Lee fan, this is worth a watch. If you want to see some off the beaten path, then I would suggest it. It may strike your fancy where it didn’t strike mine.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus was released this week on Blu-Ray and DVD.