Tag Archives: jonathan majors

Jonathan Majors Goes from Lovecraft Country to Ant-Man 3

Jonathan Majors

Deadline is reporting that Jonathan Majors has been tapped for a lead role in the third Ant-Man film. While the exact role is unknown, the rumor is he’ll play Kang the Conqueror, the next major villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Deadline also hints that there “could be a twist” with how the character is featured in the franchise.

Peyton Reed who directed the first two Ant-Man films will return to direct the third and Jeff Loveness is penning the script.

Majors is currently starring in Lovecraft Country on HBO and was recently seen in Da 5 Bloods from Spike Lee.

Kang the Conqueror debuted in Fantastic Four #19 in 1963 as Rama-Tut and The Avengers #8 in 1964 as Kang. The character is a time-traveling despot with a rather complicated history where he has played both hero and villain and even battled himself. Depending on how the character is depicted, it would point to the introduction of other classic characters soon to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kang was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He has appeared outside of comics in numerous Marvel animated shows and multiple video games.

Though mainly known as a villain of the Avengers, Kang has also clashed with the Fantastic Four, Inhumans, Young Avengers, and X-Men.

Lovecraft Country’s Debut Shows Tremendous Potential

Lovecraft Country

“This is a story of a boy and his dream…”

I’ll be honest, when they said that Jordan Peele was associated with Lovecraft Country, I was automatically interested. Since Get Out, I’ve loved this comedian-turned-visionary’s foray into the sci-fi and fantasy genre. A genre, I might add, that has rarely had any Black leads or Black characters of note. I always found it interesting that for a genre filled with so many variations of aliens, elves, etc. it was hard to spot any Black people. But now we don’t have to worry about that as Black speculative fiction, written and visual, is finally getting its due. And the opening shot of the first episode did just that!

I’ll try not to spoil the debut. I promise, but it may be a tad bit impossible.

The opening sequence is a visual feast; a smorgasbord of cinematic gold, throwbacks to the early days of sci-fi, and a homage to Black heroes without capes. I literally had to catch my breath when they panned out so we could see just what was going on. Trust me there was a lot! I was reminded of War of the Worlds and even Avengers: Endgame. And then for us to see him again, half-way between the dreaming and waking world, I found myself looking at a character that was sooo familiar. He was a blerd! Bespectacled and black. Passionate about storytelling. That’s me, y’all. That’s you.

But seeing him in the back of the bus for “coloreds only” rudely brought me back to his reality. A reality that makes up a great deal of this nation’s history. “Good riddance to old Jim Crow” indeed. Sobering still when the bus breaks down and he and another passenger had to walk to the next town. The visual coupled with hearing my elders saying “we have a long road ahead of us” was not lost on me.

But let’s discuss this enchanting cast:

Atticus Freeman played by Jonathan Majors:  Okay, I knew Majors was talented when I first saw him in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. I don’t know if it’s because he is a method actor (I’m just assuming) or what, but he brings this magnetic energy to Atticus. The nerdy “boy next door” who is back home, a soldier, but still very much a dreamer. He said “stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try and cherish ‘em, overlook their flaws.” There is a profoundness to that quote. One might think it could be applied to America… I loved that he was fearless in time when fear was used to control African Americans.

Letitia Dandridge played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell: Like Jonathan, Jurnee always brings this light to whomever she portrays. There is this infectious quality she possesses. Her take on Letitia is spunky, free-spirited, and just what this heavy show needs. Whether it’s her dancing on the stage or looking over her shades at  the gawking white woman, Letitia steals every scene.

George Freeman played by Courtney Vance: I’ve always loved Courtney. He always seems so poised and educated that it is impossible not to be taken in by it. That and the cadence of his voice. I love love love how he loves on his wife Hippolyta! #BlackLoveGoals! Their relationship is full, full of good, wholesome things, and you see just how protective he is of her. He seems protective of as his family as a whole.  It’s also clear that he loves his nephew, but skeletons in the family closet caused for an unexpected, emotional scene. And in that split second before the scene ended, you saw the look on George’s face that made you feel for him. HE BETTER NOT DIE IN THIS SHOW.

Hippolyta Freeman played by Aunjanue L. Ellis: I liked her. Another great actress. You can tell she is a dedicated and loyal wife and a loving mother to her daughter Diana. Wait…Hippolyta AND Diana? Surely that is no coincidence. If so, that would be…wonderful. I definitely want to see more of her. Especially since we see that she is interested in astrology.

Diana Freeman by Jada Harris: I really enjoyed this character and her artistic ability! I love how she was drawing comics and seemed a tad bit tomboyish. I’m sure that set her apart from what was socially acceptable back then even in the black community. But seriously though we can I find the first issue of her comic?

Another thing I found intriguing was the importance of the “Green Book” or “The Negro Motorist Green Book”. For those who do not know it was a travel guide for African Americans to travel safely during the Jim Crow era. It was considered a bible for black travelers. This, of course, is an integral theme during the course of the pilot episode because Atticus is searching for his father in Lovecraft Country. And when you watch Atticus, Uncle George, and Letitia on those winding, lazy roads weaving through America’s heartland, you also see signs proudly announcing unapologetically racism and bigotry. One such sign presented as a billboard said for black people not to let the sun set on them in that particular town.

It also made me think about just how pervasive, far reaching, and, well, traumatizing that was for the black community as a whole. Especially in the Midwest and South. Fear is a weapon. Fear is a net. Fear is a poison. I remember as a child my mom telling us to come home at sunset. I never understood why the urgency. I’m having fun so why should I be home when it starts to get dark?  I think she was just saying because she heard it from her parents. Then I remembered: my grandparents are both from the Deep South. They were young adults during this horrible era. I even recall my grandfather telling me he saw a man lynched when he was a just a kid. Sundown towns are no joke. And they STILL exist!

The cinematography was breathtaking. The juxtaposition between a line of black people on what I assume was a bread line against the mural showing a happy white family traveling on the road was stark and unsettling. I did love when Atticus bought the flower from the struggling mother. Support Black-owned businesses!

But let’s get to the fun stuff, right? Or at least the part where sh*t really got real! The slow car chase in Devon County hit differently especially with Letitia’s almost foreboding “we can outrun blob” comment fresh in your mind. I think that in all my years watching car chases on the big and little screen, this was arguably one of the most intense but definitely the most original ones whether seen on movies or tv shows! You could almost taste the fear and desperation as they tried to leave the sundown town with literally minutes to spare with the racist sheriff behind them. And then that was amplified when the monsters came….and, man, were they terrifying! In truth, I don’t know who terrifying—the corrupt police or the ravenous sharp teethed creatures was more. I can assure you there was a difference.

In closing, I think this show has such tremendous potential.  I’m a sucker for a period piece so seeing a sci fi story set in the racist 1950’s was a visual and occasionally disturbing treat. The unseen monsters are a perfect metaphor for America’s own dark history. Trust me, they are still there in today’s age, emboldened by their orange king, but now they are out in the open. Brazen. Strong and wrong. And that’s fine. We are out in the open too. And we will fight this by any means necessary.

Oh, and one last thing: whatever happens in Denmark Vesey’s Bar stays in Denmark Vesey’s Bar! Cheers!

Movie Review: Da 5 Bloods is an essential part of Vietnam War cinema

Da 5 Bloods
Da 5 Bloods, Netflix

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is a new Vietnam War movie classic, worthy of a spot among Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Platoon. These movies all stand on their own and are inherently different because Vietnam itself was so unlike conventional warfare. It quite simply resists a particular storytelling mold due to it being a very singular kind of conflict, a different species of war. For Lee’s movie to make it into that list it needed to honor that same level of uniqueness present in those other films. I can gladly say it overwhelmingly achieves this.

Da 5 Bloods follows a group of four black Vietnam War veterans that go back to Vietnam to look for a box full of gold they buried during a mission with the intention of retrieving it later on. The group is led by Stormin’ Norman, played by an intensely magnetic Chadwick Boseman, a leader/teacher figure that basically acts as the Bloods’ own war version of Malcom X and Martin Luther King.

The film alternates between flashbacks and the present time (where it spends the majority of its time), with no de-aging tech used for the four main guys during flashbacks. Boseman’s character is the only one that looks young in the flashbacks because he’s the only one who didn’t make it out of the war.

It was so refreshing not being distracted by any de-aging techniques, which made The Irishman such a frustrating watch for me. I couldn’t go five minutes at a time without asking myself why a another actor wasn’t cast in the role of the younger Robert DeNiro.

In fact, the decision not to make the four main characters younger digitally also plays into some of the film’s strongest themes: combat memory and PTSD. That the same actors played both past and present versions of their characters gave the flashbacks a tragic sense of remembrance that communicated the very rough reality of how combat vets never truly leave the war behind. It’s a constant thing that makes vets think their wars never really end (another theme explored in the movie).

Da 5 Bloods
Da 5 Bloods, Netflix

As stated earlier, the story stays the great majority of its time in the present. Their final mission in Vietnam–the retrieval of the buried gold–brings with it discussions on reparations and why black soldiers specifically deserve what’s rightfully theirs due to fighting for an America that didn’t respect them nor acknowledged their sacrifices back on the homefront.

This theme stuck with the movie throughout, making sure it was a part of every discussion that took place between the four vets. Spike Lee makes the point come across even clearer with his signature cuts to archival footage of black protests and black leaders like MLK and Malcom X adding their two-cents on any given discussion, even if it’s in presence alone. It evokes a kind of continuity for the black soldiers, seeing in Vietnam a contradiction of the very idea of military service. Why fight when black lives are being disregarded back home? Why not find this gold and give it back to the people? These questions lie at the heart of the film.

Black Lives Matter discourses are also echoed throughout the film thanks to its aggressive focus on how black military service means an entirely different thing altogether when compared with white military service. This sets this particular Vietnam War movie apart from the others, making it so different and unique in its own right. Apocalypse Now, for instance, explores war as madness. Platoon goes for misguided leadership, the absence of order, and a complete lack of accountability in war. Full Metal Jacket approaches the war as a morally corrupt and senseless act of mass violence that’s too far gone for it to be redeemed. Da 5 Bloods is about how something as historically charged as race in America completely changes what soldiers fight for. How society treats these soldiers at home will determine how their war is fought on the battlefield.

Da 5 Bloods
Da 5 Bloods, Netflix

In other words, America brings a multitude of Americas to war, each meaning something different depending on who you ask and what color their skin is.

Delroy Lindo’s character, Paul, best exemplifies all of these metaphors. Paul is the character that most visibly carries the trauma of war on his persona. He’s unstable, angry, and resistant to help from the other vets. He’s a challenging character to engage with, but the movie’s genius is often seen through him as we go from being frustrated with Paul to understanding why it’s been so hard for him to leave the war behind.

Lindo puts on a performance for the ages. He grabs the audience and pulls them in close to him whether they want to or not, but it’s all for a cause. Spike Lee entrusts him with his signature monologue sequences, in which an actor stares straight to the camera to address a problem head-on and without restraint. Lindo steps up to the challenge and gives a monologue that we should be discussing for years to come as it ruminates on what happens when a country asks its most oppressed communities to go to war in its name. The monologue ties in well with the opening scenes of the movie in which we see archival footage of Muhammad Ali explaining why he refused to serve in the Vietnam War is shown.

Actors Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, and Clarke Peters all do a fantastic job stepping into the shoes of the other three vets. They represent a cohesive unit that also struggles with leaving the war behind while also representing what Vietnam meant to them through their own character arcs. Clarke Peters in particular always keeps up with Lindo’s intensity, playing the part of the moral compass without falling to the trappings of passing judgment on any of his friends. Jonathan Majors as Paul’s son also becomes a mayor player as his fractured relationship with his father manifests and changes as the movie progresses. To a point, he represents inherited trauma and how the war extends beyond the combat veteran’s experience to become a generational problem.

Da 5 Bloods
Da 5 Bloods, Netflix

Da 5 Bloods is a powerhouse of emotion, politics, and black history that easily fits in with the Black Lives Matter movement currently voicing their anger on the streets today, but it never takes for granted that it’s first and foremost a Vietnam War movie. It’s important it doesn’t run away from that as the black experience in war has seldom been explored with the seriousness it deserves.

Vietnam War cinema in America has largely been dominated by white experiences of it. Spike Lee’s Vietnam War movie is invaluable because it sheds light on why it’s important everyone knows that not every soldier fights for their country for the same reasons. The color of a soldier’s skin dictates which version of America they’re fighting for, and they all differ on their definition of freedom.