Film Review: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a funny, moving, thought-provoking, and outstanding debut. 

San Francisco native Jimmie is struggling in an ever-changing city. He is determined to get back to his family home, in a city where locals are out priced and marginalised…

Directed and co-written by Joe Talbot (with Jimmie Fails – based on his own life story – and Rob Richert) The Last Black Man in San Francisco is an embarrassment of riches. The film boasts a wonderful script, strong direction, great performances, and thematic density. The narrative works on a number of levels. Peel back each layer and Talbot and co have something further to say. 

The narrative focuses on Jimmie and his desire to get his family home back; a sometimes quirky, and often moving journey. Protagonists Jimmie and Montgomery are incredibly well drawn, as are supporting characters. Their friendship feels real; the film exudes a sense of authenticity throughout. Their camaraderie is a joy to watch, but is not without genuine moments of sadness and reflection. Both Jimmie and Montgomery are three-dimensional characters, who make viewers laugh, reflect, and perhaps cry. 

The most prominent theme of The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the effect of gentrification on communities and individuals. The film pulls no punches in depicting the effects of this. Those living in cities and regions that have fallen prey to gentrification will certainly be able to identify with the film. However, the picture operates on multiple levels. Talbot tells a story of the search for belonging, the pull of nostalgia, the nature of family, and the reality of inequality, particularly in terms of race and class. It is testament to Talbot’s skill that he is able to ruminate on all these areas in a nuanced and engaging fashion. 

One of the most noticeable aspects of the film is its adherence to authenticity. The characters, both major and background, seem completely genuine. Be they the odd character on the bus or the homeless man with the operatic voice, it feels as if we are seeing a local’s view of the city. Talbot shows San Francisco’s beauty and its detractions. The dialogue certainly adds to the sense of realism.

Performances are strong all round. Jonathan Majors is excellent; his delivery is strong and shows quite a range. Jimmie Fails is also great. The supporting cast are also a plus including Danny Glover and Tichina Arnold. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is often witty, at times emotional, sometimes challenging, and always charming. A magnificent debut and One of the year’s best films. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die is not quite as satisfying as the package suggests. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to enjoy. 

Cliff is police chief of the small town of Centerville. When strange occurrences take place, Cliff and his officers try to figure out how to protect the town and its residents…

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, The Dead Don’t Die is probably the most star-studded zombie film ever made. From the main roles to minor characters, the film is populated with well-known faces. On the surface, the offering is most enticing. A zombie film with a focus on comedy, combined with the filmmaker’s offbeat appeal. 

The narrative begins well. The film introduces main characters and supporting characters, as well as the locale, in an interesting fashion. The humour is pretty effective as the narrative unfolds. The camaraderie between Cliff and Ronnie in particular a joy to watch. There is some on the nose social commentary, yet this is not unexpected.

The narrative builds towards the inevitable. Yet it also offers potential heroes in the ramshackle group of individuals in the small town. The film actually is less interesting with the increase of undead presence, oddly enough for a zombie film. Jarmusch chooses not to follow an obvious route however. Instead, The Dead Don’t Die offers a few unexpected moments before reaching its conclusion. 

The only issue with The Dead Don’t Die is that the second half feels like it has run out of steam. The jokes do not land as well, with a second fourth wall-breaking joke feeling flat. Whilst more gore was definitely not a requirement, some of the characters are completely underused. 

Several previous Jarmusch collaborators appear. Adam Driver and Bill Murray are as good value as ever, work well with Chlöe Sevigny. Tilda Swinton is great, while Caleb Landry Jones, Danny Glover, and Steve Buscemi are on good form. Production values are good, particularly makeup. 

The Dead Don’t Die is only a little disappointing given how much promise the film had. The film is still an enjoyable watch. 

Previews: The Dead Don’t Die Trailer, MIDSommAR, More!

Plenty of hotly-anticipated movies in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The Dead Don’t Die trailer, Midsommar, Rocketman, and more…

The Dead Don’t Die Trailer

Here is the new The Dead Don’t Die trailer. The film, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive), is about a small town that becomes overrun with zombies. The comedy horror stars Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, and Tilda Swinton. The Dead Don’t Die hits UK screens on 12th July 2019.

Rocketman Featurette

Here is a new featurette on the costumes for the upcoming Rocketman. The film, a biopic of the early career of Elton John, stars Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, and Jamie Bell. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, Rocketman is out in UK cinemas on 22nd May 2019.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer

Warning: this trailer contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. The sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home takes place after the events of Endgame. Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei, and Zendaya return, and they are joined by Jake Gyllenhaal and Samuel L. Jackson. Spider-Man: Far From Home is set for release on 2nd July 2019.

Midsommar Trailer

Filmmaker Ari Aster follows up last year’s critically acclaimed horror Hereditary with Midsommar. The film is about an American couple who join friends at a festival in a remote Swedish village. Midsommar stars Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, and Jack Reynor. The film will be released in UK cinemas on 5th July 2019.

Crawl Trailer

Above is the trailer for Crawl. The horror thriller is about a young woman who goes looking for her missing father during a massive hurricane. Those with a fear of alligators should look away now. Alexandre Aja directs the film, with Sam Raimi producing. Starring Kaya Scodelario, Crawl is set for release this summer.

Film Review: The Old Man and the Gun

Like its leading man, David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun is oozing with charm. The film is wonderful. 

An older man walks into a bank and commits a robbery. An unlikely figure, but this isn’t his first crime. As the police, attempt to trace the robber, he stays one step ahead…

From the opening sequence, the tone of Lowery’s film is immediately set. Writer-director Lowery and cinematographer Joe Anderson make The Old Man And The Gun look like a film made in the early 1980s (when the film is set). The grainy quality is immediately reminiscent of this period. Coupled with the titles, the film is very much a throwback to this era. 

The structure of the picture is set up like a game of cat and mouse. And although this loose structure is followed, the film is anything but generic. Lowery develops complex characters, not just with the protagonist and his chaser detective Hunt, but also with Jewel. The relationships that develop during the course of the film are a joy to watch. 

The film does offer tension, but this isn’t the modus operandi of the picture. Instead, the director offers an insight into the lead character, who is based on a real person. Rather than proffering a moral judgement, Lowery is interested in what drives this fascinating character. In doing so, they also explore his counterpart; with Hunt’s conversations with his wife and children elucidating his transitioning feelings towards the object of his prey. 

In what is rumoured to be Robert Redford’s final movie, Lowery has created an ode to the leading man. In using the early picture, and footage, the film feels dedicated to the fine actor. It is also fitting that he plays a character that is incredibly charming. Sissy Spacek is also excellent as Jewel; her expressions convey so much about how the character feels without the need for words. Casey Affleck is as solid as ever, while Danny Glover and Tom Waits provide good support. Daniel Hart’s soundtrack is superb, setting the tone and feeling very much of the relevant era.  

The Old Man And The Gun is one of Lowery’s more accessible films, yet there is no diminishment of beauty. A beguiling picture. 

The Old Man And The Gun is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

Film Review: Sorry To Bother You

Boots Riley’s satire Sorry To Bother You is inventive, thought provoking, and tremendous fun.

Cassius Green starts a new job as a telemarketer. After not having much luck, he is given some advice that propels his career forward – to use his white voice on calls…

Writer-Director Riley takes aim at everything with Sorry To Bother You, with employment rights, corporate speak, television, viral fame amongst the targets of his ire. The prime focus, however, is capitalism. Riley skewers the system in a way that is both amusing and resonant. 

The narrative takes its cue from Faustian myth, positing a young man who is tempted by the allure of wealth and power. What could have been rather a straightforward story is moulded into something far more compelling, thanks to Riley’s inventiveness. The premise of a call centre working finding success when he uses his ‘white’ voice is a strikingly honest appraisal of race and perception in America. The filmmaker satirises the system which upholds these values, whilst making a wider statement on the ills of capitalism and its effect on the working classes. 

At a certain point it seems as if Sorry To Bother You is going to be a show Cassius getting deeper into the system, before providing a redemptive arc. Whilst the narrative may loosely follow a traditional pattern, the final third is anything but ordinary. The spin might be absurdist, but it works ever so well given the film’s tone. 

Dialogue in the film is great at times. There is plenty to laugh at, even if the film gets serious at times. The protagonist has sufficient depth, and from the amusing interview at the beginning, he is someone for the audience to root for. Detroit is both love interest and a well crafted character in her own right. Lakeith Stanfield offers a great performance as Cassius. His delivery is on point, and reactions seem perfect. Tessa Thompson and Danny Glover standout among the supporting cast. Armie Hammer is most amusing in his caricature role. 

Riley is not afraid to target the system in Sorry To Bother You. The fact that he does this in an accessible, creative, and amusing is testament to Riley’s skill as a filmmaker.

Sorry To Bother You is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.