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Spike Lee’s New Movie Won’t Use CGI De-Aging, Unlike That Other Netflix Film

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Spike Lee
Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

Netflix didn’t offer up the coin to CGI de-age Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Norm Lewis for Spike Lee’s latest movie Da 5 Bloods, so it’s a good thing black don’t crack. Da 5 Bloods sees the four veteran actors as Vietnam War veterans traveling back to the country for first time in decades to recover the body of their former squad leader, Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman), who just so happens to be buried near a secret treasure. In flashbacks, all four of the actors, all over 50, play themselves without de-aging makeup or digital effects, like we’ve seen in Netflix’s The Irishman. According to film notes obtained by the New York Times, this decision was meant to illustrate how “current dilemmas and even ailments color recollections of their former selves.” But Lee had a much simpler explanation. “I was not getting $100 million to de-age our guys,” he told the Times, alluding to the reported $160 million budget for The Irishman, in which CGI was used to de-age Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. Netflix said there’s de-aging at home and it’s called your imagination. But, all in all, Lee isn’t that pressed about it. “I think we were able to turn a negative into a positive,” he said. One thing The Irishman and Da 5 Bloods have in common is that both their wide releases were canceled — Scorsese’s after Netflix failed to reach an agreement with venues and Lee’s due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Da 5 Bloods, the acclaimed director’s first feature film for the streaming network, will premiere on Netflix June 12.

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A tattoo artist is giving people free ‘nipple tattoos’ to help cancer survivors If the world could speak, it would say climate change, human rights, and health are a global priority. The racist ice cream man song is being replaced with a joyful new one by the Wu-Tang’s RZA No, your phone isn’t ‘listening’ to you — but it’s probably tracking you Kooky conspiracy theories are detracting from the very real issue of child trafficking U.K. conservationists have successfully brought back butterflies declared extinct in 1979

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Netflix’s Project Power Puts a Pretty Good Idea to Waste

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One pill makes you fire, and one pill makes you tall. And the one that Rodrigo Santoro gives you . . . Well, it might make you explode. Such is the risk incurred by the users of a new synthetic drug simply called Power, in the just-as-simply named new Netflix action film Projet Power (available to stream on August 14). A dangerous serum, ingested in capsule form, has swept onto the streets of New Orleans, giving its users abilities—combustion, invisibility, super strength—that most of them use to commit crimes. But what is this drug, exactly, and who created it? That is, I suppose, the mystery of the film, directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost and written—not based on anything!—by Mattson Tomlin.

It is refreshing, at least, to see a movie that is its own idea, even if many of its tropes are borrowed from the glut of superhero movies that has clogged Hollywood’s main artery for over a decade now. Schulman and Joost—who, among other things, directed the similarly hued, silly but stylish social-media thriller Nerve—work to distinguish the film even further. Project Power has a nicely saturated, jittery visual language, an aesthetic that operates in concert with Tomlin’s surprisingly discursive script, giving the film an actual grain of place-and-time texture. Project Power often has a pleasing specificity to it, even when it’s thrashing around in violent special-effects hullabaloo.

The filmmakers also had the good sense to cast Dominique Fishback in what is essentially the lead role. Fishback, whom a few fans might know from the under-watched HBO series The Deuce, plays a teenager who’s found herself dealing Power to make ends meet; her mother is a diabetic and needs medicine, one of a few ways that Tomlin’s script does some not unwelcome gestures toward various topical socio-political ills. Fishback is a magnetic presence, funny and soulful and alert. Should Project Power become the next quarantine hit for Netflix, I hope it will propel Fishback along in her career, perhaps toward material that is better able to deliver on a solid setup.

Which is, sadly, the ultimate problem of Project Power. What begins interestingly enough gradually devolves into a confusing muddle. The film forsakes a keen emotional tenor for melodrama and tangles its plot into a senseless knot. By the end of Project Power, I had less of an understanding of the project in question—its aims, its origins—than I did at the beginning. Which is to say nothing of the methodology. What kind of drug trial is this, that just willy-nilly strews a outrageously dangerous pharmaceutical throughout a city and lets its users run rampant and, for the most part, uncontrolled? (There is a slight allegory here for the reckless and disastrous proliferation of OxyContin and other prescribed opioids, which isn’t lost on me—but that allusion needs a lot more teasing out to actually stick.)

But, hey, what does sense matter when there are some genuinely cool super-power effects—a fiery fight in a dingy apartment complex is the highlight—and a big movie star flashing his wattage at the audience? That star is Jamie Foxx, playing a man on the hunt for Power’s source out of deep personal motivation. It’s meant to be a question, for a while, whether he’s good or not, but it’s clear pretty much immediately that Foxx has not been tapped to play a murderous, drug-crazed villain. For a brief stretch, though, there is a thrilling charge to his vigilante anti-heroism, a tingle of menace that Foxx—such a persuasive performer—carries smartly.

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Did Desi Really Love Lucy? The Scandal That Rocked TV’s First Family

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The magazine detailed other trysts, and engaged in what passed in 1955 for sociological analysis: “He comes from a land, Cuba, where the men are torrid and the ladies, allegedly, are glad of it.”

Desi seemed unabashed. “What’s she upset about? I don’t take out other broads,” he reportedly told a friend. “I just take out hookers.”

Lucille hid behind a brave façade. She tried to face down the article with humor, saying on a crowded set: “Christ, I can’t go out and buy that [magazine] myself—somebody go out and get one for me!” Her longtime publicist, Charles Pomerantz, would later tell People: “It was during a rehearsal day, and she went into her dressing room. Everybody was frozen on the set. She finally came out, tossed the magazine to Desi and said, ‘Oh, hell, I could tell them worse than that.’”

But it was hard for her; humiliating. That night, according to Brady, she and Desi were seated at a celebrity event next to the French opera singer Lily Pons and the famous actor and comedian Danny Kaye; Kaye made a point of twisting the blade: “Desi, you made Confidential!” When Pons asked what Confidential was, Kaye said: “It’s a magazine about fucking.”

So now the whole country knew. But no magazine had enough juice to sour tens of millions of fans. The show survived, and thrived—enough for Desi to buy RKO, the studio that had once fired both Arnaz and Ball. But the effect on their relationship was real. The article is said to have drained the joy from their marriage, and they divorced, for good, in 1960.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Lucille Ball, at least a little, when you write about her. Some icons are so universal they slip from view; how does a storyteller breathe a little new air into a story like hers? Does anyone remember that she battled CBS to broadcast an interracial marriage? That she invented reruns so she could have kids and keep her job? Lucille Ball owned the most studio space—she was “the biggest single filler of television time,” according to Life.

I wrote The Queen of Tuesday because I wanted to remind people of her place in history. And I gave her a romance of her own. She was a strong woman, obviously brilliant, and her husband humiliated her. With this book, I tried to provide her with the closest thing to revenge to be found between hard covers. She earned it.

Darin Strauss is the author, most recently, of the National Book Critics Circle winner “Half a Life.” His book, “The Queen of Tuesday,” comes out on Aug. 18 from Random House.

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