Talking Pictures with Neil Rosen


New Movies: Justin Timberlake, Denzel Washington, Rami Malek

Film critic Neil Rosen invites viewers to explore the movie industry with him each month, as he dives in to the latest releases from Hollywood and independent producers. Interviews with actors and other industry insiders, as well as commentary from fellow critics, provide varying perspectives on the ever-changing world of film.

AIRED: March 05, 2021 | 0:26:46

Neil: This week on Talking Pictures with Neil Rosen:

we'll look at the new biopic The United States Vs.

Billie Holiday, the historical drama Judas and the Black

Messiah, the period crime thriller The Little Things

with Denzel Washington and Jared Leto, and the new drama

The Father starring Anthony Hopkins as an elderly man

struggling with dementia.

Plus the movie Palmer with Justin Timberlake.

We've got all that and many more movie picks coming up.

♪ [Opening Music]

Hey there everybody.

I'm Neil Rosen and welcome to Talking Pictures.

It's our monthly critic roundtable show where we

debate what's worth watching and what's not when it comes

to new releases, hidden gems, and Hollywood classics.

And we know that most of the movie theaters are still closed

and you're probably craving some entertainment so along

with my panel who were all screaming from home, we have

plenty of movies and TV series for you to watch at home.

Joining me are, Bill McCuddy from GoldDerby.

Hey there, Bill.

Bill: Hi Neil. Yes, we're still at home.

Please send help.

Neil: Peri Nemiroff from Collider.

How are you today, Perri?

Perri: I am doing well, but missing those theaters myself.

Neil: Yeah, we're all missing the theaters.

And Jack Rico returns to the show.

My buddy from Showbiz Cafe. How are you Jack?

Jack: I miss you Neil.

And I'm glad I'm here on the show with you.

Neil: I'm glad you're here too.

And let's start out with a look at several new films that

are available either on demand or on streaming services,

beginning with something called the United States Vs.

Billie Holiday. Let's take a look at a clip.

[singing] Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Neil: Perri, tell us about the United States Vs.

Billie Holiday.

Perri: All right.

So this one here is from director Lee Daniels and

it tells the true story of singer Billie Holiday.

And it begins in the 1940s when the government is

determined to stop her from singing the song Strange

Fruit, which is about lynching.

And then in order to do that, the Federal Department of

Narcotics winds up targeting Holiday in the war on drugs.

This one didn't entirely come together for me, but I

will say that Andra Day is absolutely incredible in this.

We already knew that she was a super talented singer,

but her performance here as Billie Holiday is just so

shockingly natural, impassioned and really truly mesmerizing

because I couldn't take my eyes off of her the entire film.

And that did come in handy when I think some story structure

and visual choices ran the risk of taking me out of it.

Neil: Bill?

Bill: Well, I was very, very taken out of this

film by some of the things Lee Daniels has done and I

recommend her performance but I don't recommend the film.

Neil: Jack?

Jack: I'm sort of in the same boat, Neil.

I mean, if you're looking for a soap opera with Billie

Holiday being tormented by the FBI, then this is for you.

But if you're looking for a cinematic, artistic film that

has, or merits Oscar buzz, then this one isn't for you

for as much as conflict as it did have I struggled to be

attentive for the two hours and 10 minutes of this film?

And I'm going to be honest with you, Billie Holiday is just

more than her drug addiction.

It's her music, her legacy that we should have

seen a little bit more.

It kind of collapses towards the, towards the third act.

Neil: Well I'm with Perri.

I liked the film and I think that Andre Day's

performance is incredible.

I think it's, it's Oscar, certainly Oscar

nomination worthy.

So much so that, I mean, she's like the living

embodiment of Billie Holiday.

I thought she was lip syncing to those Billie Holiday songs.

I couldn't believe after I watched the movie I researched

it that it's actually her voice.

That's how much she sounds like Billie holiday.

And I also like the fact that it's a very relevant movie

today, I mean, in terms of, you know, racial injustice and

police brutality and censorship.

And, you know, look, she was championing civil rights

before there was even a Civil Rights Movement.

I thought that was interesting.

I think it's an important film and I do recommend the film.

All right. Let's move on.

Bill, tell us about a movie called The Little Things.

Bill: Well, it stars Denzel Washington and let's give you

the headline right upfront. This movie is a snooze, Neil.

The Little Things is a throwback thriller about a

serial killer terrorizing LA.

Denzel is a deputy sheriff in a small town called back

to LA where used to work and he's teamed up with

Rami Malik, horribly miscast, to hunt down Jared Leto.

Now that's when the movie gets exciting when the serial

killer, whether or not it's Jared or not, shows up.

But that's an hour and five minutes into this film.

John Lee Hancock made it.

He's also made The Rookie, The Blind Side, and A Perfect World.

All are better than this Seven want to be.

Neil: Jack?

Jack: Anticlimactic.

I mean, the epic fail of this ending is everything

about this movie and why you shouldn't watch it.

But how is it possible that you have three Oscar winners

that can't even deliver great performances here and it

has to do with the writing and with the direction.

It just feels like a 1990s generic thriller that they

dusted off of the Warner Brothers archives and it

just really has no, no payoff at the very end.

So scratch this. I do not recommend this film.

Neil: Perri?

Perri: I was not happy watching this movie.

At first I was kind of hopeful that maybe it would be something

along the lines of Zodiac, but the pace never picks up.

And then in the end I found myself wondering,

well what was the point in sitting through all of that?

It's so unfortunate because we have such a great leading

trio here but the story overall just doesn't work to the extent

that their performances in the movie just loses a significant

amount of that or luster.

And I'm totally baffled right now by how Jared Leto

scored a SAG nomination for his performance in this.

Neil: Jared Leto is the only good thing in this movie.

I agree with you guys.

It's really like a tedious movie that goes on and on.

It makes no sense.

There's so many holes in the plot.

I agree with you completely, Bill.

Rami Malik is completely miscast in this thing.

I did not buy him as a family guy with two kids who all of

a sudden is, you know, he's also a grizzled detective.

And then he goes through this transition in the middle of

the movie and the direction the writing don't support why

he goes through that change.

I would pass on this movie and by the way, Jack, there

is a payoff on the end, but it's a lousy pay off.

It's in the last minute, and it's not worth the two

hours to go through the movie to get to that payoff.

So we all agree. It stinks.

Let's pass on The Little Things.

All right, next up is a movie called The Father.

Jack, give us the, give us the scoop on this one.

Jack: Yeah, this is from first time director, French

director, Florian Zeller, who gives us one of the 10 best

films of 2020 in my opinion.

It stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman, Olivia Williams,

Imogen Poots, amongst others.

And The Father is about a story of a man in his eighties whose

mind slowly starts to spiral into the darkness of dementia

and everything about this film is just absolutely stunning.

Zeller directs from the point of view of Hopkins as he

weaves us in and out of the nightmare of his memory loss.

And at 82, Hopkins' is at the peak of his powers giving

us a masterclass in acting.

To me The Father is more than a drama, feels more

like a horror movie to me.

But it's also a reminder that this movie does have

these generous and loving people that can take care

of people who either suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia.

So this movie to me is just one of the great films of 2020.

Neil: Perri?

Perri: Jack, I'm so glad you put it that way, ‘cause I

thought it wasn't going to sound earnest when I said this, The

Father is hands down one of the scariest movies that I've seen

in a while and as someone who likes the horror genre proper I

feel like that's saying a lot.

It's just Zeller is so good at making you feel disoriented

but also within reach of what Hopkins' character had in his

life prior to the diagnosis, it's so deeply frustrating and

scary to really be able to feel everything you know just being

ripped away from you like that.

And I think the father might be one of the best movies I've ever

seen when it comes to conveying what it might feel like to go

through something like that. Neil: Bill?

Bill: Well, it's not in my top 10, but it's certainly

a very, very, very good movie.

I think the thing that does the best is to kind

of put us into Hopkins shoes and let us experience

what's happening inside.

Get out of my apartment. Get out of my apartment.

His, the people that come in and out and you're a little

put off by who they are.

I'm not going to give too much away, but that's the brilliance

of this movie is that you're having some of the same doubts

that Anthony Hopkins is having. I agree.

This is a really, really good movie.

Neil: Yeah.

Hopkins gives like an amazing performance and, you know,

if you know anybody that's gone through this horrible

disease, I mean, it's a very tough movie to watch.

The ending of the movie is kind of like a Twilight

Zone reveal, but it's also a killer of an ending.

I won't give away what it is, but it's a mysterious

plot device and it's really powered by Hopkins performance.

Difficult to watch, but highly recommended.

Anthony: I'm not leaving my flat!

I am not leaving my flat! [slamming door]

This really is my flat -- isn't it?

Neil: Judas and the Black Messiah is a historical drama

that focuses on the leader of the Black Panther party in

Chicago and an FBI informant during the late 1960s.

Let's take a look.

Fred: You can murder a liberator but you can't

murder a liberation.

You can murder a revolutionary but you can't

murder a revolution.

And you can murder a Freedom Fighter but you

cannot murder freedom!


Revolution! [repeating]

Neil: Perri, tell us about Judas and the Black Messiah.

Perri: So as you stated, it is about Fred Hampton

and his true story.

He's the chairman of the Illinois chapter of

the Black Panther party.

And the movie covers what happens when the FBI targets

him and they send someone in to infiltrate the party and

act as an informant for them.

I got a lot to say about this one, because I feel

very strongly about it.

Neil: Go for it.

Perri: The performances here are incredible.

Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are phenomenal as

they always are, but I did want to take a moment to highlight

someone who's a little lesser known that I think deserves

a lot of credit here and it's Dominique Fishback who plays

Deborah Johnson, the woman who ultimately becomes the mother

of chairman Fred's child.

And she's got a lot of unique, heavy lifting

to do in this movie.

And she really knocks it out park but also overall,

I lost sleep over the movie in the end over how

sickening the progression of these events were.

And I think it's an important thing to highlight because

it's not the kind of movie that's just informative

and let's you go on your way after the credits roll.

It kind of ignites a fire in you that essentially

acts as an extension of Fred Hampton's original

mission and inspires change.

Neil: Bill?

Bill: I love this film. I think it's important.

I think everyone should see it.

I have one problem but slight with that that I'll bring up,

which is that Stanfields character is rudderless and

really at times we're not exactly sure what side he's on.

He also goes to dinner with Jesse Plemons from the FBI,

enjoys steak and cognac with him in obviously in

a public restaurant that he could be discovered in.

Those are nits. This is a fine, fine film.

Stay for the very end where you're going to

learn some things and meet some real people.

And then there's a tragic, tragic twist.

This is one of the best films I've seen so far this year.

Neil: Yeah, I'm with you by the way, on the going -- Yeah,

let's go to the highest profile rest steakhouse in Chicago and

I'm an FBI undercover agent.

Yeah, that didn't really sync up with me but also

a minor nit with me too. Jack?

Jack: Well, if you really look at just 2021 alone,

three films have already brought up the same subject,

MLK FBI, United States Vs.

Billie Holiday that we just saw today, and now Judas

and the Black Messiah where the FBI is targeting Black

figures and Black leaders.

And Judas in by no way is a perfect movie but it's

definitely a timely movie that you need to watch right now.

It's also a movie that rarely gives us the perspective

from the Black Panthers party and I thought that

that was very important and crucial, especially today.

Neil: I highly recommend the movie.

I can give you a little nit.

And some of the speeches, Fred Hampton played by Daniel

Kaluuya went on for a little bit too long and they were a

bit redundant, but that said, this is such an important movie

that has so much relevance.

And I think that LaKeith Stanfield is really, that's the

performance that blows me away.

We didn't mention Martin Sheen as J Edgar Hoover

buried under prosthetics, which is also kind of wild.

You wouldn't believe that that was Martin Sheen. Yeah.

This is an important history lesson and should be seen.

Next up is a movie called Minari. Jack?

Jack: Well, it's directed by Lee Isaac Chung and

starring Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Yuh-jung Youn, Alan Kim,

and Noel Cho, and Minari is an immigrant film about the

American dream and it's also, to me, the best film of 2020.

The film follows a South Korean family who try to

make it in rural America by buying a farm during the

1980s, risking everything in pursuit of a good life.

It's a meditative, quietly beautiful film about family,

belonging, sacrifice, adversity, and faith.

And as a Hispanic myself.

I understand how difficult it is for communities to feel

that they are one with the country and I was moved by

it's honesty, truth, and realness.

To me, it's a nuance but very powerful film.

Neil: Bill?

Bill: I mean, listen, I came to this like everyone expecting

one of the best films of the year ‘cause that's what I

was told it was going to be.

There's a lot of nothing here I'm afraid.

And I admire the way some of the storytelling is done but

it kind of concludes, just sort of stops and I really was not

that taken with the storyline, so I'm not recommending it.

And I'm sorry.

Neil: Perri?

Perri: I'm utterly shocked right now.

And I respect your opinion Bill, but nobody out there

listen to him because I cannot believe how good this movie

is at affectively, warmly, and naturally conveying so many

things from how impossible it can feel to achieve the

American dream, the gap between the families Korean roots,

and then also how the youngest of the family David, his more

Americanized expectations, especially when it comes to his

grandmother, which is one of the highlights of the film and

just generally what it means to be a family unit and to have

different hopes and priorities but still be able to come

together and support each other.

Really I think this one is beautiful from top to bottom and

I cannot recommend it enough.

Neil: Well, if you're shocked at Bill's comment, Perri, wait

till you hear mine because I not only agree with Bill, I'm

going to go a step further.

I do not recommend the film.

I think it is way overrated.

I think the characters are stereotyped and the grandmother

that you love so much, Perri, I think she's like a couple of

steps above a sitcom character.

She's supposed to be very amusing.

I did not find her funny at all.

I think that the film lags in spots and it's draggy, and I've

seen this film done to better effect in many other movies.

I don't recommend it. It's okay.

But I certainly don't agree with you, Jack, but,

you know, that's what makes horse races, what can I say?

All right, Bill, Palmer, starring Justin

Timberlake on Apple TV. Go ahead.

Bill: If you get that, please watch.

Palmer stars Justin Timberlake going back to

LA, but not Los Angeles, Louisiana, after 12 years

doing a stretch for robbery.

He was sort of the hometown hero.

He's back now living with his grandmother, June Squibb and

next door there's a trailer mom, Juno Temple who's a drug addict

and she has an exceptional son, newcomer Ryder Allen.

If this all sounds terribly cliched from director Fisher

Stevens it's because on paper it sounds that way,

but Justin Timberlake is the secret weapon in this

otherwise ordinary story. He's terrific.

The kid is terrific.

The kid is bullied because he likes to dress as a

girl and plays with dolls.

That all seems like it's on the nose, but let me

tell you, there's a lot to like here in Palmer.

Neil: Perri?

Perri: If it sounds like it's a little cliche it's

‘cause it kind of is. The movie still worked for me.

I found it to be a solid watch, but I'm not going to tell you

there aren't predictable beats in this story that I could have

seen coming from a mile away.

But the thing is the relationship between Palmer

and Sam, Justin Timberlake's character and Ryder Allen's

character, it's just, it's so charming and so easy to

root for that you can really overlook those things.

And I can't believe how good Alan is in this movie,

because this is all a lot of heavy lifting for such a

young actor and I really did find him to be exceptionally

natural and just radiant throughout the entire movie.

Neil: Jack?

Jack: Well, I went to go see this movie because of

the evolution of the actor that Justin Timberlake is.

Unfortunately, I stayed for Ryder Allen.

He's the real true star here and Justin Timberlake

comes off as gritty, but not fully convincing to me.

And I don't know if it was because maybe too much NSYNC,

you know, in my lifetime.

It's just, it was hard to separate the

celebrity from the actor.

And overall mixed feelings about this one.

Neil: I liked this a lot.

And I, to your point, yeah, Perri, it could come off

as cliched, but there's such a twist in this with

this kid that and, Ryder Allen, he steals the show.

I think he's the centerpiece of this thing.

That kid is amazing.

And since they're both social outcasts, Timberlake's character

and Ryder Allen's character, and the metamorphosis that,

you know, Timberlake's character goes through throughout

the movie is phenomenal.

There's a scene when Timberlake goes to buy Ryder Allen's

character a princess costume for Halloween, that it's

priceless and heartwarming.

And if you have Apple TV, I do highly recommend that

you check this movie out.

Sam: Can you hear that? Cameron: What?

Sam: Is that Penguin?

Cameron: Hey! Leave her alone!

Sam: Penguin! [knocking on glass]

Cameron: Leave her alone! Hey! Hey!

Neil: That was a clip from the new movie Penguin Bloom.

It happens to be Perri Nemiroff's personal choice

as we go around the panel as we do every month with our

critics picks of the month. Perri?

Perri: You can watch this one on Netflix.

It tells the true story of Sam Bloom, who's played

here by Naomi Watts.

What happens is she goes on a family vacation and

suffers a fall that leaves the lower two thirds of her

body completely paralyzed.

As an active person and athlete and active mother, it's really

difficult for Sam to adjust to this new lifestyle, but

a source of encouragement comes in an unlikely form.

It is a baby magpie that the family names Penguin.

I just cannot explain how much I adored this movie.

I've probably seen it too many times since it

debuted at TIFF last year.

But it's just the perfect balance of respecting the

severity of what happens to Sam Bloom and also being hugely

heartwarming and aspiring too.

And then of course the little magpie in the movie is just

the most heart melting thing that I've seen in a while.

They actually shot the film with real birds.

And I just think that made such a big difference in

terms of really conveying the relationship the penguin has

with her human family and making their connections so palpable.

Neil: Yeah, the bird trainer, props to that person, but I do

think it's sort of predictable and also like a Lifetime

movie except it's cast, it's such extraordinary actors,

they elevate the material and put it over and it's aim is

to pull at your heartstrings and move you emotionally.

So despite its obvious nature, I think it still

manages to accomplish that.

Bill: Hey but, Perri, we know at Collider you love

these really horror films.

So like the magpie attacks, Naomi, right?

And like eats her? Perri: Very funny.

Neil: Funny guy.

Okay, Jack, there's a movie that scared the hell out of

me that you made me watch called The Social Dilemma.

And why don't you tell everybody about it?

Jack: Well, it's directed by Jeff Orlowski and it's for

anyone who is interested in understanding a little bit

more about the negative and the positive impact that

social media has in our lives.

This documentary speaks to the creators and the designers of

many of the tools that have led to the mental health issues, the

social divisions, and political warfare around the world.

And it explores how we have become products as

opposed to consumers for these social media giants.

You know, it's a horror movie. You were scared.

I was scared.

And it's hard to shake off once you see it.

Neil: Yeah.

I wanted to really like get in the Michael J. Fox

DeLorean from Back to the Future and go back in

time 30 years to get out of this social media thing.

That how much this thing scared me. Perri?

Perri: Scared me but it didn't scare me into stop,

not using social media. I'm just fascinated by it.

Neil: Bill?

Bill: This is a must see for everyone just to

see how big brother is watching us all the time.

Neil: And the fact that you have the people in this

movie who designed this particular software saying

that they're not even letting their kids go on social

media is quite a statement.

Look, it shows you in the movie that all this civil unrest

that they're having not only in this country but around

the world is due to social media and how you live in your

own bubble of news and you don't get any disagreements

to your opinion and we never had that before social media.

So it is such an important film.

Jack, this was quite a recommendation and I think

everybody on the planet should watch this movie.

And similarly themed, talking about the internet, Bill, you

have a movie to recommend here.

Bill: Yeah, you'd think Jack and I got together and picked these,

they're a perfect double header.

Mine is called Fake Famous and it's about three

unknowns that director Nick Bilton turns into internet

phenotypes with mixed results.

One of them takes off spectacularly and she enjoys it.

But the other two have misgivings about it.

Look, Neil, it's really about people who will

do anything shamelessly to promote themselves.

So for example, you can follow -- or on Instagram.

I also will say that since this show has started, this

movie shows you how to buy followers and I have bought

Neil Rosen, an extra 1000 Instagram followers so you

are now up to 1,005 followers.

Neil: Are they bought because in the movie --

Bill: It's an important, important movie.

Everyone should watch it. Fake Famous.

Neil: Jack, get Jack, ‘cause you're such an

internet maven guy. Go ahead.

Jack: I just think this is a really great compliment

to The Social Dilemma in understanding the obsession

behind likes and how it is the current currency of the world.

So if you want to understand the psyche of this generation and

why that happens, Fake Famous is a really great movie to see.

Neil: Perri?

Perri: These two movies freak me out because they make me realize

or further realize how much of a part of the problem that I am.

It's like, I respect all the red flags, but the temptation

is still there and that concerns me quite a bit.

But if anyone out there is looking to pick one over

the other, whereas Social Dilemmas felt like a super

informative documentary this is almost a mashup of

informative documentary and reality show, which made

it wildly entertaining.

Bill: It's a how to. It's a primer.

It reminded me of Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Book.

It tells you how to go out and buy the followers.

It's pretty incredible.

Neil: I learned a lot here.

I mean, it was enlightening, but it was also sickening.

You know, that this is going on and this is like

the degradation of society.

And I also felt really old and out of the loop watching

this, not really knowing how this like worked.

But maybe being out of the loop in this particular thing is

not such a bad thing, you know?

But if you want to learn how this works buying, as Bill

said, fake followers that aren't really even real people,

they're bots, you know, it is a primer on how to do this.

So, you know, you might want to check it out.

All right. Finally, my pick.

Well, 10 years ago, Martin Scorsese directed a feature

film documentary called Public Speaking about

the New York writer and humorous Fran Liebowitz.

Now the pair is back with a seven part docu-series

called Pretend It's a City.

Each half hour episode is tied to a particular New York

centric topic as Liebowitz walks around pre pandemic New

York and sounds off in her raw imitable style about the many

little things that bothers her about our beloved city.

And she does love Manhattan.

Wouldn't dream of living anywhere else.

But lots of things tick her off. She's very funny.

And if you're not familiar with her one of a kind style, maybe

she's like a cross between Jerry Seinfeld and Andy Rooney

formerly of 60 Minutes, but she's definitely her own thing

and I can listen to her all day.

The series was recently parodied on SNL and anyone

who spent any significant time here in New York would

probably relate to her hilarious gripes and incisive opinions.


Bill: Uh, it's great except for one thing, she's

turned Martin Scorsese into Martin Scor-sycophant.

He's like her Ed McMahon.

He just laughs at everything she says.

I actually feel bad for the guy. He's a huge, huge fan.

And he's a huge, huge friend. And it's very evident.

This is all pre-pandemic, as you said, so it's bittersweet

to watch, but I recommend it at least for New Yorkers and

maybe outside of that zip code.

Neil: Jack?

Jack: You know, Fran Liebowitz is one of the,

one of the last great raconteurs from New York City.

She knows how to tell a great story.

Unfortunately, this whole thing felt like a time

capsule to a New York City that no longer exists and

therefore there's, it just lacks the urgency to see it.

And as Bill said, yeah, Martin Scorsese seems to

be the most obsessed person with Fran and I'm not sure

if everybody's going to feel the same exact way.

Neil: Perri, I know you didn't see it.

Have we convinced you?

You have any interest after this?

Perri: I feel a little too sensitive because I'm going

to be all, I'm going to be all sad and bummed out

because of the condition New York City is in right now.

I'm a little hesitant to watch it.

Bill: That's a great reason to watch it.

It's a callback to a great time that we will obviously

get back to eventually.

Perri: All right. I like looking at it that way, Bill.

Maybe I will.

Fran: Yes. In the back.

Audience Member: Hey, Fran.

I actually never heard of you before.

Fran: That's really a good way to break the ice.

Neil: And that's about all the time we have.

And with any luck we've given you some movies and TV shows

to watch to help pass the time.

I want to thank Bill McCuddy, Perri Nemiroff, and Jack Rico.

Stay well. I'm Neil Rosen.

Join us next time on Talking Pictures.

♪ [Closing Music]


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv