The two films reviewed today are quality films you should make the effort to watch. One is a music documentary that chronicles the ‘Black Woodstock’ of 1969; while the second is the latest from Steve Soderbergh, a noir film set in the 1950’s.

Summer of Soul (Hulu) – Part concert film, and part Black History lesson, this multi-awarded Sundance documentary gets its opportunity to be widely watched on the popular streaming platform Hulu. And yes, for anyone with a love for Music, this will be an enjoyable, vicarious eye-opener. And if you get sucked in into the history lesson, count yourself blessed, as it will help you understand and appreciate the struggle the Black man and woman has had to endure in the USA. The mere fact that this documentary even exists only today is an abject lesson in Black reality. The concert being recorded is the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, the same year Woodstock happened. But the footage was left ignored and unwanted for fifty long years.

The fiery Nina Simone, a young Stevie Wonder, Latin music courtesy of Ray Barretto, Gladys Knight & the Pips and their smooth soul groove, the rock funk of Sly and the Family Stone – they’re all part of this celebration of Black music; and you’ll love watching how all the Motown acts had to wear suits and ties even when performing in the New York summer heat. Especially touching are how some personalities like Gladys and the Rev. Jesse Jackson actually took the stage back in ‘69, and are called back to watch the footage, and provide commentary. Gladys talks about how they were such a new, breaking act back in 1969, and they performed Heard It Through the Grapevine. This documentary is one delicious slice of history.

No Sudden Move (HBO Max) – This is the latest in the continuing saga of Steve Soderbergh no longer directing Movies for the big studios. Thankfully, despite that pronouncement, he’s actually been prolific over the last few years, and I have to say that this is a minor masterpiece, tightly wound and plotted, and with enough twists and turns to qualify as a major winding mountain road. Set in Motortown Detroit in the mid-1950’s, it’s Soderbergh’s update of the noir film, inhabited by petty crooks, big business shenanigans, and your regular Joe’s caught up in events and predicaments that they have no business being involved in. There’s crisp action, double-crossing, marital infidelity, and a whole lot more packaged in this film.

The cast is like a who’s who of tough, sinewy heavies. Led by Don Cheadle and Benicio del Toro, we also have Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Bill Duke, and a cameo from one Matt Damon. In roles where they’re practically unrecognizable and playing against type, we find Brendan Fraser (yes, of The Mummy film franchise), and David Harbour.

Soderbergh has fun utilizing a fish eye lens and while some may find this off-putting, it actually works in being a stylized touch and making us feel were that much closer to the action on the screen. There may be point midway through the film, when one may feel too many balls are being juggled in the air, as the ensemble expands, and we get a succession of quick sequences. But you will bet rewarded paying attention, as it’s all tied up nicely for a satisfying foray into a period Detroit underworld. 

Source: Manila Bulletin (