Movie Summary: Two great movies showing in Tucson this week

Tucson has a nice race to catch up with the opening of two films that make up my personal top ten list for 2020.


Now on Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 and Roadhouse Cinemas (also on HBO MAX)

Director and co-writer Shaka Kings Judas and the Black Messiah shows two great actors, Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, who are all on fire.

Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, has become the focus of an FBI investigation led by J. Edgar Hoover (a heavily made-up Martin Sheen). Bill O’Neal (Stanfield) is briefed on Hampton and the Panthers by the FBI after getting himself into trouble.

From powerful speeches to more intimate moments, Kaluuya offers some of his best work since Get Out (in which he also starred with Stanfield). King and Stanfield make the choice not to portray O’Neal as a complete snake, but rather as a disheveled guy who has crossed his wires with tragic consequences.


Jesse Plemons is generally strong as FBI agent Roy Mitchell, the man who hired O’Neal and led him on the infiltration journey that resulted in him being a leader in panther safety. Mitchell was a catalyst for the eventual deaths of Hampton, as well as O’Neal, who died years later of an apparent suicide.

This is one of the better looking movies of 2020 (Messiah actually qualifies as a 2020 release), a year that we received two screenings from Hampton (he’s also featured in the far less effective The Trial of the Chicago 7). King’s film gives its story the screen time it deserves.


Now available on Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 and streamed through The Loft Cinema

A Korean family moves to Arkansas in the 1980s to start a new life as farmers, a dream for the father (Steven Yeun) but not so much for the mother (Yeri Han).

Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film is an elegantly told family story with the best work by Yeun as David and an award-winning performance by Yuh-jung Youn as grandmother, who lives with them in her prefabricated house in the middle of nowhere.

Mom and Dad make ends meet while they build their farm and check the sexes of the chicks. (The males go straight to the incinerator, which now makes me worse because of the plight of chickens and roosters). Grandma helps watch the kids as she chugs Mountain Dew and endures the good-natured nonsense of her grandchildren.

Will Patton offers memorable work as an eccentric neighbor with a penchant for speaking in tongues and lugging around a large cross as part of his fitness regimen. Noel Cho and Alan S. Kim are great as kids.

The movie feels real, authentic, and charming when depicting a different time in history. (Good God, was that really 40 years ago?) While his dreams may seem a little crazy at first, Chung makes you believe in David, his dreams, and the little successes that make up those dreams. You can really feel the satisfaction he feels driving his newly purchased tractor and harvesting his vegetables. You will also see and feel all of the pain he and the family go through to experience these satisfying moments.

This film is beautiful in a word.


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