The good stuff
When I first watched 25th Hour the film left a bigger impression on me. Maybe it's because I hadn't seen that many films back then, maybe it's because time has blunted some of its initial impact.
Worthy but flawed
A pretty straightforward film by Lee's standards. BlacKkKlansman is the story of a young but passionate black cop who infiltrates the KKK and uses a white (Jewish) stand-in for his face to face confrontations. Based on a biographical book, Lee sticks closely to the genre conventions.
That's a nice and easy way to honor the work of Stallworth, but it also makes for a slightly duller film. You don't need to know the history to predict how it all pans out and without Lee's stylistic flourish it's little more than a plot moving from beginning to end, at a pretty consistent pace.
Performances are nice though and while predictable, it's still quite fun to see how it all comes together. BlacKkKlansman isn't a bad film, it's just a little basic and by the numbers. The references to BLM and America's current political climate at the end of the film don't do much to change that.
A Spike Lee documentary on the havoc Hurricane Katrina unleashed on New Orleans. Not just the physical destruction, Lee also looks for the broader impact on society, how several governmental institutions failed, what part race played in the unraveling and how failures from the past facilitated the disaster.
The first part is mostly focused on the actual disaster, the second part digs around in past failings and the long-lasting impact on the people who suffered through this event. Lee is smart enough to let different people give their version of the story, so it's not just endless complaining/blaming, though in my opinion the balance still felt a little off.
There's also an addendum for those who really love this doc, after four hours though I figured I had a pretty good idea of how this documentary framed the disaster. I would've preferred a slightly more balanced approach and the runtime really is quite excessive, but overall it was a pretty interesting film that is a must for people looking for a thorough look at Hurricane Katrina's history and its aftermath.
Spike Lee must've had a clear vision when he started this project, but I dearly hope it wasn't anything close to this devastating mess. Da 5 Bloods feels like a film that wanted to say a lot of important things, but ultimately it comes off as a very bad pastiche. Not once does Lee find the right tone for his film.
With four black veterans returning to Vietnam to honor their fallen friend, the film has a perfect setup to revisit the Vietnam War and tell it from a black perspective. Throw in some gold hunting plot for a little adventure and suspense, and you have all the ingredients for a great film. Why then did it feel like a bad comedy, something that holds the middle between a bad Apocalypse Now rip-off and a subpar jungle-set JCVD action flick.
Performances are poor, the action scenes are drab, the dramatic moments are laughable and the political inserts are completely overshadowed by the incompetence surrounding them. The entire film is such a big mess that it is actually quite amusing to watch (at least to see where it is going), but in the end if feels like Lee overreached tremendously and couldn't stop himself from falling flat on his face. This wasn't any good.