You’re probably looking at the headline and thinking, “Wait a damn minute, Halloween hasn’t even arrived yet, and we’re already talking about Christmas?!” Yes. If there is one constant in 2020 (spoiler: there are no constants in 2020 other than the constantly unpredictable news) it’s that the Christmas season trumps other holidays. Mariah Carey already tried to tell y’all that Thanksgiving basically doesn’t exist. Anyway, let’s get to this week’s trailers...
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix; Release Date: Nov. 13, 2020)
First Impressions: First of all, I’m already in because of the name Jeronicus Jangle (portrayed by Forest Whitaker). Does this mean I already have a special holiday edition of Negro Noir? Stay tuned. Jingle Jangle follows Jeronicus, a toymaker whose invention is stolen by some hater played by Keegan-Michael Key. John Legend is one of the producers and this film stars Madalen Mills, Keegan-Michael Key, Sharon Rose, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Kieron Dyer, Justin Cornwell, Lisa Davina Phillip, and Hugh Bonneville. Also, I hear Usher and Kiana Ledé’s song from the film’s soundtrack is a holiday earworm.
Driving While Black (PBS; Release Date: Oct. 13, 2020, at 9 p.m. ET)
First Impressions: Whether it is the historic era of The Negro Motorist Green Book or the modern era of Philando Castile, driving while Black is inherently political. Based on the acclaimed book by Gretchen Sorin, this relevant film will explore the history of Black mobility between the 1930s and 1960s and “displays the urgent and powerful relevance to issues and dynamics at work in American society today—of race and class, gender, safety, law enforcement, automobile culture, recreation, personal freedom, and national identity.”
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Marvel 616 (Disney+; Release Date: Nov. 20, 2020)
First Impressions: Marvel 616, a look into Marvel’s rich legacy, “will cover topics including Marvel’s world-spanning artists, the trailblazing women of Marvel Comics, discovering the “forgotten” characters of Marvel” and more. This anthology docuseries will follow eight different stories and yes, Black creatives within the Marvel universe are included in this from the looks of the trailer.
Deaf U (Netflix; Now Streaming)
First Impressions: The coming-of-age reality series from executive producer Nyle DiMarco (America’s Next Top Model Season 22 winner) follows “a tight-knit group of deaf students at Gallaudet University, a renowned private college for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, in Washington, D.C.” I see two prominent Black male characters though; I am hoping as the series progresses we see some Black women representation, as well. Shout-out to Jade Bryan of #DeafTalent, who keeps that representation going.
The 355 (Theaters; Release Date: Jan. 15, 2021)
First Impressions: When a top-secret weapon falls into the hands of a mercenary, a group of ladies who wouldn’t otherwise team up (a typical movie trope, of course!), have to team up to save the world. So, as you can see we have a bad-ass Black agent in the female-led CIA team, and she is Lupita Nyong’o. Do you want to know her name? Y’all, it’s Khadijah. You better pay homage to Living Single!
Save Me Too (Peacock; Season 2 Release Date: Nov. 5, 2020)
First Impressions: Nelly Rowe (Lennie James) portrays a father who is accused of abducting his own daughter (whom he barely knew) in the first season and the second season continues 17 months later with his daughter still missing. “I don’t know where I’m going, but I ain’t lost,” Nelly utters at the end of the trailer. Hmm, maybe I should incorporate that into my life mantra.
Friendsgiving (Theaters, On Demand, Digital; Release Date: Oct. 23, 2020/Blu-Ray and DVD on Oct. 27, 2020)
First Impressions: Ah, Friendsgiving. As a transplant to Los Angeles (via Chicago), I am all too familiar with this concept. In fact, I think my first one will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first time I spent the holiday away from my fam (shout-out to my friend Steph!). Fun times. Now, this movie? Looks like chaos! Friendsgiving, which has the tagline, “come for the friends; stay for the fallout,” features Deon Cole, Wanda Sykes, Aisha Tyler, and more.
Iyanla Fix My Life (OWN; Season 7 Release Date: Oct. 31, 2020 at 9 p.m. ET)
First Impressions: Wow, seven seasons! It seems like just yesterday I heard Iyanla yell, “PENIS!” or slam the table letting y’all know shenanigans aren’t happening on her watch. This season will feature Shay Johnson (Yes, “Buckeey” from Flavor of Love) and comedian Luenell, among others.
Coach Kev (Snapchat; Release Date: Oct. 10, 2020)
First Impressions: Kevin Hart does everything. In this new Snapchat series, Hart is described as the “best friend/mentor/coach you didn’t know you needed.” I’m guessing since the major traffic incident he recovered from, Hart is leaning way into his inspirational and motivational energy.
Gramercy (BFI London Film Festival through Oct. 18, 2020, Hamptons International Film Festival through Oct. 14, 2020, and AFI Fest from Oct. 15 to Oct. 22, 2020)
First Impressions: From Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood comes Gramercy, a short film following a Black man named Shaq (Shaq Bynes) with depression who returns to his hometown in New Jersey where he grapples with grief and brotherhood. At The Root we are always supporting mental health awareness, so this is right in line with our values (in fact, World Mental Health Day is tomorrow, October 10; more on that to come). I’ll have to check this one out, as it looks beautiful.
I ELECT (YouTube; Release Date: Oct. 17, 2020, at 7 p.m. ET)
First Impressions: A one-woman show performed by Carey Brianna Hart, I ELECT is a recollection of a Black woman’s experience on the night of the 2016 election. As we look back on that moment knowing where we are now in 2020 (with a whole global pandemic, uprisings and much more), I’d say this type of hindsight is relevant.
Represent (PBS; Release Date: Oct. 26, 2020, at 10 p.m. ET)
First Impressions: As we all know, 2018 represented (heh!) a pivotal and historic year for women in politics (shout-out to The Squad). Represent specifically follows three candidates of the Midwest who tackle politics on their own terms: Myya Jones, Julie Cho and Bryn Bird. Girl power!
Soul Summit: Doin’ It in the Park (YouTube; Now Streaming)
First Impressions: OK, from the moment I heard the beginning of “Follow Me” by Aly Us, I was in! Soul Summit is described as “an intergenerational destination for house heads; a safe haven for Black queer expression; and an enduring Black space in gentrified Brooklyn.” This short film celebrates the legendary house music dance party and it encapsulates the Black joy we need these days. I really do miss events like this, immensely.
Fatman (Select Theaters on Nov. 13, 2020, and Digital/On Demand on Nov. 17, 2020)
First Impressions: OK, so a little boy gets a lump of coal for Christmas, which is pretty standard, but what’s not standard is he has mob ties and hires an assassin to exact revenge on Santa Claus (Mel Gibson). Yikes. Also, yikes-worthy? The fact that Mel Gibson is still working. But, I even pushed that aside and was like “OMG is that a Black Mrs. Claus opposite Gibson’s Santa?” Yes, it is, portrayed by Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Well, alrighty then.
The Stand (CBS All Access; Release Date: Dec. 17, 2020)
First Impressions: We recently reported that Whoopi Goldberg promoted this upcoming series when discussing a possible Sister Act 3, and now we have visuals! This is a Stephen King joint set in an apocalyptic world. Goldberg portrays 108-year-old Mother Abigail and the fate of all mankind rests on her shoulders. Wow, sounds like America. Also, get into the creepy version of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. This is also a good time to mention that the Marley estate will be releasing 12 limited edition vinyl LPs around the same time on Dec. 11.
Nationtime (Theaters, Drive-Ins and Virtual Cinemas; Release Date: Oct. 23, 2020)
First Impressions: The long-lost documentary film by William Greaves chronicling the National Black Political Convention of 1972 is here and restored just in time for the current political era we’re living in. Nationtime is narrated by Sidney Poitier with poems recited by Harry Belafonte. The film will feature prominent historical figures such as Bobby Seale, Coretta Scott King, Amiri Baraka, Dr. Betty Shabazz, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Queen Mother Moore, Ron Dellums, Charles Diggs, Walter Fauntroy, Richard Hatcher, Carl McCall, Dick Gregory, Isaac Hayes, and Richard Roundtree.
Black Girl, Bleu (Digital; Premiere Screening Date: Oct. 10, 2020, at 2 p.m. ET)
First Impressions: Saturday, Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day and as mentioned above, The Root is all about that mental health awareness. From filmmaker Sharee Silerio, Black Girl, Bleu is an intimate look at Black women who have had or are currently tackling mental health crisis, supplemented with therapist discussions. The short documentary seeks to unpack the “strong Black woman” trope and reveal our humanity and vulnerabilities on a journey toward healing and self-love.
One Story Up (Topic; Release Date: Oct. 15, 2020)
First Impressions: In an exclusive debut for The Root, the trailer for One Story Up is a sneak peek at Roger Ross Williams’ (the first Black director to win an Oscar) monthly series that showcases the most talented emerging directors and underrepresented voices in film. Every month, Williams handpicks short films that will cover an array of topics, including coming-of-age stories on race and class and chronicling the journey of growing up Black in the South.
True to the Game 2 (Theaters; Nov. 6, 2020)
First Impressions: PRISON BAE (real name Jeremy Meeks) IS IN THIS. Very Smart Brothas Senior Editor Panama Jackson already wrote about the first film, so it looks like I may have to take the baton and feature it in my Negro Noir series. This sequel also stars Vivica A. Fox, Andra Fuller, Erica Peeples, Niatia “Lil Mama” Kirkland, and Iyana Halley. This is going to be a hot mess and I can’t wait.
Rogue City (Netflix; Release Date: Oct. 30, 2020)
First Impressions: Per Netflix, Rogue City is “a complex case of rivalry between gangs and a group of cops unfolds in Marseille, where the border between personal and professional justice is blurred.” The film stars French rapper Kaaris (born Okou Armand Olivier Gnakouri). If you’re in need of an action flick (en français!), this looks like it’ll satisfy that appetite. Bon appétit!
That’s all for now! In case you missed it, YouTube has a round of trailers for its originals series as part of its #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund. Also, did you know that cheating expert Peter Gunz is now the host of Cheaters? Because he is. Goodnight and good luck! See y’all next week.