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We Need To Talk About Cosby Review: Showtime’s Portrait of a Predator

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We Need To Talk About Cosby Review: Showtime’s Portrait of a Predator

We Need To Talk About Cosby. Do we? How a person may respond to the statement depends on who they are, and will determine whether they even watch this new documentary series from Showtime. Some people will respond with a resounding no, “we don’t need to talk about Cosby,” considering the scandal became global news back in 2014 and the world has since shifted its outrage onto so many other individuals and situations. Some people will enthusiastically reply, “yes, absolutely, there’s so much more to say about Bill Cosby.”

W. Kamau Bell’s series will probably not change any minds or draw in any naysayers, the way that diehard Republicans probably aren’t excited about seeing a Michael Moore movie. These people might say that they know everything about Cosby and his case already and that it’s old news. Documentaries have a tendency to shake up the past and exhume dead stories, though, much like O.J: Made in America or Surviving R. Kelly reignited passionate opinions, anger, and interest. We Need To Talk About Cosby may do the same thing, if only because it’s an expertly constructed example of long-form documentary.

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Dissecting the Microcosm

Bell is no stranger to sparking controversy and asking tough questions. The sociopolitical comedy of his series Totally Biased and his (seven-time Emmy nominee and three-time winner) program United Shades of America both take on a litany of difficult, complicated, and very American questions, and We Need To Talk About Cosby is no different. While Bill Cosby is undoubtedly the focus of the entire show, the disgraced former superstar becomes a kind of microcosm through which Bell (and myriad interviewees) can discuss race, rape, cultural shifts, and the perennial question, “can you separate the art from the artist?”

Related: We Need To Talk About Cosby Trailer Chronicles the Comedian’s Downfall on Showtime

The documentary uses editing brilliantly, combing through the comedian’s work over the course of half a century (through stand-up albums, TV shows, commercials, movies, interviews, speeches) in order to provide a fuller, broader picture of Bill Cosby than anything has before. The editing also locates hints, clues, and other bread crumbs left throughout Cosby’s career trail which act as evidence leading to his crimes, and are confirmations of his character.

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Interviews with a vast spectrum of individuals is the other great boon to the show. Bell talks to just about everyone– former co-stars and friends of Cosby, his rape and assault victims, his biographers and showrunners, lawyers, psychologists, sex therapists, professors, forensic specialists, magazine editors, journalists academics, and even a specialist on pharmaceuticals and psychotropic drugs. Combined, the varied subjects create a kaleidoscopic, often postmodern perspective, seen from the very beginning. Belle asks, “Who is Bill Cosby now?” in the opening scene. The editing cuts through a plethora of responses, groans, and chuckles. “Deep black girl sigh,” one woman says. “Oh boy,” a man begins, while another asks himself, “Should I even be talking about this?” One woman ends the sequence succinctly. She says, “He’s a rapist who had a really big TV show once.”


Which Cosby?

There seems to be a different Bill Cosby for different groups of people. What makes talking about Cosby difficult remains different for everybody. Some aforementioned people just don’t want to talk about him at all, for whatever reason. The discussion which does take place seems fundamentally different between white folks and people of color, though. The awkward pain of a Cosby conversation is more palpable for Black people, especially those who grew up with the once-beloved comedian and actor. We Need To Talk About Cosby painstakingly lays out the groundbreaking importance of the man’s career, which began with being one of the first Black individuals to perform stand-up comedy on national television, and the first to star in a weekly drama series (and the first to win an Emmy), in I Spy. He elevated Blackness in popular culture to a level of dignity, sophistication, intelligence, and grace which was sorely lacking in the media landscape before him.


His accolades don’t stop there, however. He was nominated for a Grammy Award every single year from 1964 to 1973, winning eight times (six of them in a row). His album To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With has been ranked first by Spin and called “stand-up comedy’s masterpiece,” His theatrically released stand-up set Bill Cosby: Himself is considered the greatest comedy concert film of all time, with GQ chronicling the praise it’s received by famous comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Ray Romano, and Larry Wilmore (who said “I don’t think there was a better one before it, and I don’t think there’s been a better one since”). He was a clean comedian, he hosted numerous shows, he donated millions upon millions of dollars to Black causes and colleges (including a single $20 million donation to Spelman College, a Black women’s college), fought for education, and created the first cartoon with a Black cast. Perhaps more than this (or because of this), however, is the fact that he was utterly trusted and adored in a paternal sense. He was literally loved by millions of people who knew him as “American’s Dad.”


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Yet, We Need To Talk About Cosby shows in meticulous detail how, behind the public persona, lurked a predator who had consistently raped and/or assaulted over 60 young women (and likely many more) over the course of his career, beginning at the Playboy Mansion. What the series is particularly great at is providing an excellent analysis of sexual assault, from how it happens to how it is perceived. Through interviews with therapists, doctors, lawyers, forensic experts, and survivors, the show really explains and answers many of the questions often asked about rape culture– why some women don’t come forward, how a person can get into that situation, and how to know who to believe. Without being condescending or bitter, the series addresses everybody (including victim-blamers) and lays out a concise case as to how these things happen, why the culture has allowed them to happen, and how to prevent them from happening.

Related: Bill Cosby Speaks Out After Prison Release: I Have Always Maintained My Innocence

It’s especially interesting when the show goes into detail about people’s disbelief over Cosby and his crimes. Highlighting a variety of experiences that have made Black Americans mistrustful of anytime a Black man is culturally attacked or “Emmett Tilled,” We Need To Talk About Cosby is uniquely focused on Black audiences and how they wanted a mainstream hero and positive expression of Black excellence so badly that some ignored the signs pointing to Cosby’s guilt. Heroes are hard to shake; once someone is beloved and nearly worshipped, practically anything they do can be justified.

Of course, the series rightfully takes it for granted from the beginning that Cosby is guilty of rape (something which a court had determined), but even anyone who still experiences doubt would most likely still be swayed by the end of these four hours, even before this infamous section from his deposition:

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Q: So, you’re not telling us that you verbally asked her for permission?

A: I didn’t say it verbally […] I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue, and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.

Of course, Cosby was released from prison in mid-2021 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction because of this very testimony; the deposition was unsealed by the judge at the time, which was later considered to be a broken deal with the prosecution. Bell films this in real-time, the cameras observing him while he checks his phone and realizes that the very subject he’d been creating a four-hour documentary about had just screwed up his ending.

The final episode of We Need To Talk About Cosby contains some of its most fascinating and emotional moments, interviewing people while Cosby was still imprisoned and directly after he was released. It is interesting that, while they despise him, most of the women in this film weren’t overjoyed or delighted to see him in prison. One simply remarks to her husband, “this sucks,” lamenting the sad fact that an entire nation and one of its strongest groups of people had been so let down by the heartbreaking disintegration of their hero. Others comment about the broken justice system, and how sex offenders and rapists don’t get much of any help or reform in prison to guide them into being a better person and never abusing someone again, but instead are mostly sent away to rot. “Bill Cosby going to prison isn’t justice when we still have an entire system that supports rape culture, and doesn’t believe women when they say they’ve been sexually assaulted or raped,” Bell mourns, and the documentary series reveals itself as something vastly more mature than some petty schadenfreude or episode of cheap true-crime.


Belle is a good, compassionate interviewer, but the editing is the real star of the show here, and it’s brilliant at mining overlooked and forgotten material over the course of five decades, and matching it up to various interviews and testimony. Recordings from his stand-up material about ‘Spanish Fly’ (a date rape drug which makes women unconscious), his weird joke in The Cosby Show about his ‘special barbecue sauce’ which makes women woozy, his uncomfortable gestures and strange responses in interviews– these are just a few of the insanely large amount of examples We Need To Talk About Cosby gives audiences as a complete portrait of a predator as television has ever seen. A potential viewer may disagree, but We Need To Talk About Cosby makes a strong case for why this conversation hasn’t ended.

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Bullet Train Review: A Wickedly Funny, High-Octane Thrill Ride

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Bullet Train Review: A Wickedly Funny, High-Octane Thrill Ride

Brad Pitt leads a wickedly funny ensemble in a high-octane actioner loaded with twists. Adapted from the 2010 Japanese novel by Kōtarō Isaka, Bullet Train has a bevy of disparate assassins manipulated by a mysterious criminal mastermind. Stuntman turned action director, David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), stays true to form with unrelenting bloody and flamboyant violence. The codenamed characters get downright verbose before beating, stabbing, and shooting each other to bits. The loquacious banter tends to run long, but the narrative always bounces back with sharp reveals. Strap in for a helluva ride.

Ladybug (Pitt) boards the overnight bullet train to Tokyo with a newfound sense of self. He’s chock-full of philosophy after recovering from a near fatal ambush. Ladybug ignores his unseen handler’s advice to take a gun. Surely any issues can be resolved peacefully. The job seems straightforward enough. Steal a briefcase with a sticker and exit at the next stop.

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Also on board are Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), ruthless “twins” known for their brutal methods. Lemon is obsessed with the British children’s show “Thomas & Friends”. He reads people by comparing them to the anthropomorphized trains. The twins are escorting the previously kidnapped son (Logan Lerman) of a powerful gangster, the White Death (Michael Shannon).

None of the hired guns are aware of the Father, aka Yuichi Kimura’s (Andrew Koji), mission. He’s out for vengeance but foolishly runs into a deceptive figure. The Prince (Joey King) has a score to settle with the White Death. Meanwhile, the Wolf (Bad Bunny) joins the fray after his truly horrific Mexican wedding. He’s also ready for serious comeuppance. Ladybug quickly realizes they’re all unwitting pawns in a dangerous game. Someone has packed the train with killers for an unknown purpose. He desperately wants to get off but can’t seem to escape the carnage.


Related: I Love My Dad Review: Patton Oswalt’s Delightfully Cringeworthy Catfishing Comedy

Cast of Bullet Train

Bullet Train introduces the cast with splashy entrances that flashes back to their dark pasts. The murderous montages are informative but don’t fill in every gap. The script doles out more critical information as the bodies pile up. Alliances bounce back and forth as everyone wonders who’s actually pulling the strings. The whodunit element works well as the audience becomes embroiled in a series of betrayals. You don’t have a sense of the plot’s true trajectory until the third act. The film builds to a showdown that delivers a huge action payoff.

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Bullet Train has complex characters that each contribute slices of devilish humor. Brad Pitt preaching self-help and understanding is an effective gag throughout. Brian Tyree Henry’s constant comparisons to Thomas & Friends aren’t as comical but play an important role in the story. There are a lot of moving parts. Leitch, who worked as Pitt’s stunt double for years, is clearly fond of his players. He gives everyone a chance to babble incessantly. I would have trimmed the dialogue to be more incisive.


The action scenes are worth the price of admission. Leitch has a great eye for mixing stylized set pieces with intimate fights. He knows when to go big and small. You never feel let down by his pacing. There’s always the right amount of adrenaline to keep your pulse pumping. Bullet Train is another feather in a skilled filmmaker’s cap. Watch out for A-list cameos and a mid-credits scene.

Bullet Train is a production of Columbia Pictures, Fuqua Films, and 87North Productions. It will be released theatrically on August 5th from Sony Pictures.

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Bullet Train Review: Brad Pitt Has A Blast In The Silly And Badass Action Comedy

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Bullet Train Review: Brad Pitt Has A Blast In The Silly And Badass Action Comedy

If orchestrated properly, with adjusted stakes, tone, and atmosphere, there can be a beautiful, symbiotic relationship between intense action and comedy. A hero pulling off a rapid and vicious series of blows against an opponent can be savage and dramatic in one context, but it can also be so deliriously awesome that an audience’s first reaction is to laugh. Fast paced martial arts can be used for wonderful physical humor (see: the legendary career of Jackie Chan), and the best examples provide dual layers of entertainment: you marvel at the skill in all the ass-kicking, and cackle at the creativity in the choreography.

This is a sweet spot that filmmaker David Leitch knows well. After peppering funny moments in John Wick and Atomic Blonde at the start of his directorial career, he brilliantly utilized the action/comedy weapon that is Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2, and crafted some excellent physicality with the unique styles of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. His latest, Bullet Train, is another effort that takes aim at that particular tonal target, this time with his most expansive ensemble yet, and it’s another success. With a sensibility that could be described as early Guy Ritchie with more specific action focus, it’s a movie that is both silly and skilled and inspires its primary star in particular to do energetic and engaging work.

Based on the novel Maria Beetle by Kōtarō Isaka, the film weaves multiple narrative threads through the cars of the titular bullet train as it speeds through the country of Japan – all of the protagonists being killers with their own particular reason and motivation for being aboard. Ladybug (Brad Pitt), for example, is a hired gun who has been tasked by his handler (Sandra Bullock) to perform what sounds like a simple job: find a briefcase marked with a train sticker and steal it. What he doesn’t know, though, is that said briefcase belongs to a pair of British hit men named Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and that the contents include the recovered ransom for the kidnapped son (Logan Lerman) of a powerful crime lord known as The White Death.

Meanwhile, Kimura a.k.a. The Father (Andrew Koji) is on the bullet train because he is on a mission of vengeance – hunting down the person responsible for nearly killing his son by pushing the boy off of a building. What he doesn’t expect is that the individual he is looking for is a young woman identified as The Prince (Joey King), and that she has purposefully gotten him on the high speed rail with the intention of forcing him to execute an assassination attempt.

And while five killers sharing the space would be enough for most movies, Bullet Train actually has even more that pop in and surprise throughout the film’s runtime – and their roles are worth keeping as a secret pre-release.

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Bullet Train has a chaotic storyline, but the pieces properly connect as a fun puzzle.

Narratively speaking, Bullet Train is a messy movie to put together, as focus briskly ping-pongs between the different players, but everything stays in harmony as the film persistently finds ways to build on each protagonist’s arc. This is particularly cool later in the movie as different characters are drawn together from individual angles and instant conflict is generated from their simple interaction.

The film is at its best when it keeps things simple, but it does let things go off the rails at times (if you’ll pardon the pun). This is especially true as it gets into the third act and it tries to pull off stunts like one of the leads leaping from a platform on to the back of the train as it leaves a station; it’s both a problem for the “rules” of the universe and in its strained use of visual effects. The movie also frequently tries to get a bit too cute and Tarantino-esque with what are admittedly familiar-but-not-quite-stock characters – the most prominent example being an ongoing and quickly tiresome gag with Lemon explaining that he understands people through the lens of Thomas The Tank Engine.

Primarily, though, it’s a movie that is able to generate its entertainment with engaging and quippy dynamics between the members of the ensemble, both when they are talking out their issues and trying to kill one another.

David Leitch puts a lot of exciting and weird fights in a confined space, and is at its best when working with a “less is more” philosophy.

Coming from a stunt background, both as a performer and a coordinator, David Leitch’s bread and butter remains deftly and specifically choreographed action sequences, and Bullet Train proves to be a terrific challenge and opportunity for his skills. Regardless of where you are in the titular transport, space is not a luxury, and the best fights in the movie are those that are being fought only between the characters, but against the limitations provided by the location.

There are guns, knives and explosives in the mix, but Bullet Train also has some terrific “found item” moments that add spice and humor to the various showdowns, whether it’s a pocketed cell phone saving a character’s life from a blade, a laptop making for a solid cudgel, a water bottle making for a useful projectile, or a venomous snake showing up at a perfect moment.

Once again we see David Leitch work a special magic turning dramatic and comedic actors into badasses with slick and stylish moves, and while everyone shows off some terrific skills, it’s very much the Brad Pitt show at the end of the day.

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Brad Pitt’s joy in the role of Ladybug is palpable.

At the nexus of everything good in Bullet Train is Brad Pitt, who very clearly had a blast reuniting with David Leitch (who performed the actor’s stunts in films including Fight Club, The Mexican, Mr. And Mrs. Smith and Troy). He’s a joy to watch in action not just because of the talented craft he demonstrates in his physicality, but how he channels the psychology of the character. As we meet him, Ladybug is reluctantly getting back into his business following a number of important breakthroughs with his therapist, and Pitt does a fantastic job conveying that he doesn’t ever want to choose violence as a first answer – both via verbal pleas and defense-heavy moves. Action/comedy is a genre he should revisit a lot more often.

Bullet Train doesn’t aim to revolutionize hitman movies, but instead plays with a tongue-in-cheek vibe that lets you recognize the tropes and appreciate how the film plays with them. It’s a slick/goofy action movie that is both contained and wild, and a satisfying late summer release.

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Luck Review: A Spectacular Debut Film from Skydance Animation

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Luck Review: A Spectacular Debut Film from Skydance Animation

The world’s unluckiest woman enters a magical land to change the fortunes of a fellow orphan. Luck will make you smile and possibly shed a few tears. The big-budget, CGI animated fantasy shines a spotlight on needy children while telling a truly original story. An assortment of lucky critters and creatures dazzle in a spectacular setting. The highly imaginative narrative gives age-old superstitions a dynamic new spin. Luck is a brilliant first film from Skydance Animation.

Sam Greenfield (Eva Noblezada) reaches her eighteenth birthday with trepidation. She’s finally aged out of the foster care system. Sam never found her “forever family”. She spent her entire life living in orphanages. It doesn’t help that Sam has the worst luck. Everything she does or touches ends in abject disaster. Her only thoughts are for young Hazel (Adelynn Spoon), Sam’s roommate at the girls home. Sam has been set up with a job and tiny apartment. She has to stay in school and employed to remain housed.

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Sam’s first day at Marv’s (Lil Rel Howery) floral shop goes exactly as expected. She sadly eats dinner sitting on a sidewalk. Sam learns that Hazel’s weekend trip with a foster family was canceled. She gives half of her sandwich to a curious black cat. It scampers away but leaves a strange penny behind.

The following day is a revelation. Sam’s lucky penny changes everything. Her ecstatic mood sours when she loses the penny in spectacular fashion. Stewing on the sidewalk, Sam’s surprised when the black cat returns. She’s astonished when Bob (Simon Pegg) asks for his penny. The “travel penny” is the only way a creature from the Land of the Luck stays safe in the human world. She follows an unnerved Bob back through the portal to the Land of Luck. Sam has to find another lucky penny to help Hazel. Bob reluctantly agrees, but they have to be careful. Misdeeds end up in banishment to Bad Luck.

Related: Bullet Train Review: A Wickedly Funny, High-Octaine Thrill Ride

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The Land of Luck

The Land of Luck is an absolute joy to behold. Leprechauns, cats, pigs, and rabbits, lucky creatures, are the bureaucrats tasked with spreading good fortune. Bringing Sam in such a place is a recipe for absolute chaos. Bob, and his leprechaun assistant Gerry’s (Colin O’Donoghue), efforts to contain Sam’s bad luck will have audiences in stitches. I’m still chuckling at Sam’s “Latvian leprechaun” disguise; their harebrained excuse for why she’s so much bigger than everyone else.

Luck’s serious themes are artfully addressed. Sam’s lonely childhood, and her desperate efforts to change Hazel’s, brings a melancholic touch to the narrative. The film reminds us to not take love and family for granted. Every kid deserves care, nurturing, and a safe place to grow. It shouldn’t take luck or chance for a child to find a “forever home”.

Insert sigh here. Recent headlines concerning John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars) will undoubtedly cloud this film’s release. The genius storyteller and animator behind Pixar’s success left to head Skydance Animation after awful “Me Too” allegations. He’s brought his incredible talent to Luck, and it shows. This wonderful film deserves to be judged on its own merits. Sometimes we must divorce ourselves from art and the personality of the artist.

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Luck is a production of Skydance Animation and Apple Original Films. It will have an exclusive Apple TV+ premiere on August 5th.

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