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  • The High Note

    The High Note

    ★½

    A wish-fulfillment fantasy romance about the music industry, The High Note reaches for a sense of veracity by casting Tracee Ellis Ross as a simulacrum of her mother. And in the rare moments when her character, Grace, is the focus of the movie, the actress does bring it somewhere real—like when a label boss gently affirms that she needs to do a Vegas residency, and Ross answers with a reaction shot that shows off pains both old and new. During…

  • Da 5 Bloods

    Da 5 Bloods

    ★★★★

    Having lost his standing with the major studios, Spike Lee spent the 2010s trading his credibility to new media companies in exchange for creative freedom. Hence a Brechtian musical gang violence satire for Amazon, an hour-long documentary on student activism for theundefeated.com, and now Da 5 Bloods for Netflix, a genuinely big-budget (post-)war epic about four black veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isaiah Whitlock Jr.) who travel back to Vietnam looking for gold they’d looted the first…

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  • Chi-Raq

    Chi-Raq

    ★★★★

    Or: The Umbrellas of Chicago.

  • Aziz Ansari: Right Now

    Aziz Ansari: Right Now

    ★★

    Telling moment here where Ansari involves a member of the audience by asking the guy to say a word that evokes a racial slur, and it seems rather clear the guy's not going to say it, but Ansari completes the bit as if he was about to anyway, not so much because there's greater meaning to be found in doing so but more because that's the only direction the bit can take which allows Ansari to frame himself as a…