xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
This review was originally published on 9/2 and is now re-posted in conjunction with its Chicago opening.
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” opens with an old "Soul Train" clip of musical legends, The Chi-Lites. “For God’s sake,” the group sings, “why dontcha give more power to the people?” The Afro-clad quartet deliver their message of protest with a funky groove, a technique director Stanley Nelson adopts for this documentary. A river of protest soul music runs through the film, underscoring the visuals and influencing the smart editing choices by Aljernon Tunsil. He and Nelson traverse a structured arc as if designing great drama, presenting a slew of talking heads, film clips and rarely seen photographs. The film avoids hagiography, and in doing so, brings out the undeniable humanity of its subjects.
PBS strikes again with another fine documentary about the Black Power movement. “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” would make a fine double feature with 2012’s “The Black Power Mixtape.” That film stunned me, leaving my mind racing with thoughts and ideas. In my RogerEbert.com review, I wrote that “Mixtape” took me “back to the days when I came to a mature understanding of the implications of being Black, male, and broke.” The same can be said for Nelson’s documentary, but “Vanguard” also added an unnerving sense of déjà vu. “If you live long enough,” an elder once told me, “life starts to feel like a merry-go-round.” Viewers will be struck by how eerily familiar and current the tactics depicted in this film are. In the grand scheme of oppression, fifty years is apparently long enough for history to repeat itself.
"Vanguard” reminded me that every generation has its media-fueled boogeyman, and it’s usually a brown one. The American majority of my parents’ generation was scared out of its wits by the Black Panther Party, an Oakland-based group fighting for the civil rights of African-Americans. Founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the Panthers had a multi-point plan and a savvy command of the fine art of media manipulation. They presented a tough, military-style image that ran counter to the suits and Sunday-best attire of protest marches and sit-ins. They published a newspaper, like the Nation of Islam did, that detailed events and delivered news to the Black community. They provided a breakfast program for poor kids. And they used the Second Amendment to great effect by blatantly carrying loaded guns in a state that had an open carry law. Whenever confronted about this by the police, Newton would recite the California Penal Code that made his weapon legal.