Summer of Soul is one of those films from which you emerge saying “My favourite part was that bit. No, that bit. Wait, how about that bit?”, says Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. It’s about the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, a six-part, six-week music festival with a line-up “so absurdly rich that you want to laugh”: Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder’s keyboard solo, Everyday People by Sly & the Family Stone and the “calibrated beauty” of Gladys Knight & the Pips’s dance routines. Musician turned documentarian Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson – a member of the house band on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show – has shuffled footage with a croupier’s cunning to create the best movie of the year so far, the one most likely “to ease the load and lift you up”.
Maybe you’ve never heard of the Harlem Cultural Festival, says Eileen Jones in Jacobin. That’s because Woodstock happened less than 100 miles away at about the same time, and that’s all the media was talking about. “Black Woodstock” was promptly erased from the public consciousness, and no audience has seen this footage in 50 years. Only now are we reliving this epic event, attended by a mostly black audience of up to 300,000 – elderly gents in sleek suits and hats, and young hipsters with glorious afros. The festival was produced on a shoestring, the Black Panthers provided security and, in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, the atmosphere was “excitingly volatile”. “It smelled like Afro Sheen and chicken,” says talking head Musa Jackson. Dig in.
Summer of Soul is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer here.
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The Flight Attendant
HBO Max’s zippy comedy drama is exactly the “good-looking stay-at-home globe-trotting TV binge-watch” we jaded prisoners of Britain need right now, says Chris Bennion in the Telegraph. Flight attendant Cassie (Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory) wakes up in a swish Bangkok hotel after a splashy bender courtesy of Alex (Michiel Huisman), the handsome rich man in seat 3C “who she introduced to the mile-high club on the flight out from New York”. Unfortunately he’s lying next to her with his throat cut, and she can’t remember a thing. So begins a frothy eight-part murder-mystery that was nominated for a brace of Golden Globes.
Cuoco’s all-star performance “makes you want to match each of the many drinks she downs just to get through this whirlwind heart-stopping drama”, says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. She needs to get it together, shrieks her best friend and lawyer (the wonderful Zosia Mamet) when she turns up ahead of an FBI meeting reeking of drink. Meanwhile, Alex hangs around as a wise-cracking corpse in Cassie’s Sherlock-style mind palace while she pieces the missing night back together. Everyone is deliciously untrustworthy. Strap in for turbulence: this is “wonderful, punchy stuff”.
The Flight Attendant is available on Now TV and the Sky Go app. Watch the trailer here.