Black Panther Review

Introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther returns in his first solo outing. It is also 18th feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite being ten years old and that many films under its belt, Black Panther adds new elements. This will be the first black superhero film under this franchise with a primarily black cast and black director. Monumental on many levels that cannot be understated. But how does the film actually fare?

Black Panther Okoye Nakia.jpg

Black Panther picks up literally a week after the events of Civil War. T’Challa is set to become the king of his country but that does not come easily. Not only dealing with his own uncertainties as a king but from outside forced. Ulysses Klaue and the mysterious Erik “Killmonger” Stevens stand as serious threats. A question posed in the film is that is a tough for a good man for to be a good king.

This is arguably the MCU’s most political film. There is much discussion on race relations, borders, isolationism, how much nations should help others, the good of the few versus the good of the many. It doesn’t get bogged down in any of this but the film never loses this element. Just because the main character dresses as a cat, there is a very important reason as to why. It also doesn’t present any of these issues as having easy answers.

T'Challa.png

Chadwick Boseman returns as T’Challa/Black Panther. He’s always a solid actor but unfortunately he gets lost in the shuffle. This is more due to the nature of his character. The audience does get to see many sides of him such as the stoic king, warrior, big brother, lover and even sometimes trickster. He is the anchor that everything revolves around and will be nice to see where he takes the character in further installments.

Black Panther movie cast

The supporting cast is astounding. Danai Gurira as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje oozes charisma. She does not play the generic badass. We see many sides of her that was somewhat unexpected. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakai, a spy for Wakanda and former lover of T’Challa brings a grounded element. Since she is much more world travelled than many Wakandans, she brings a different element to the film. Letitia Wright plays Shuri, the younger sister to T’Challa. The brightest mind in the MCU who starts out as support and comic relief but shows how she is much more than that.

Winston Duke as M’Baku was the biggest surprise. Based on the Man-Ape (which of course they don’t acknowledge), he could have been a generic antagonist. Instead he brings different layers to his character despite limited screen time. Forest Whitaker is solid as ever. as Zuri, the spiritual advisor in Wakanda. Daniel Kaluuya also has a small but important and poignant role as T’Challa’s best friend, W’Kabi. Kaluuya shows how great of an actor he is with just simple looks. Angela Bassett doesn’t get a ton of screen time as Queen Ramonda, but she makes the most of it with hints to a layered past. Andy Serkis returns as Klaue and you can tell he is having a blast playing the scene chewing character. Martin Freeman reprises his role as Everett Ross from Civil War and we learn a lot more about the character and his growing relationship with T’Challa.

Erik Killmonger.png

The standout is certainly Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger. Bringing out a realism not seen before in an MCU film. A man with justifiable anger but who has let that anger consume him. Whenever he is on the screen, you pay attention to what he says and does. The only knock is that he is introduced early on but disappears a good chunk before reappearing. This is Jordan’s third feature film with Coogler and one can’t help but think that this helped both the character and actor.

Ryan Coogler

This is director Ryan Coogler’s third feature film and he also co-wrote it. Though it is in the MCU, he does bring his own voice to the film. That really has been the standard for the MCU in Phase 3 and it has been the better for it. His first film, Fruitvale Station, was a low budget drama. His second film, Creed, had a higher budget but still kept the drama and great boxing scenes. Black Panther is the culmination as it is a high budget filled but never forgets the character moments even intermixed with the action scenes. Able to squeeze out these great moments that help the film not become too fantastical. It would be a crime if Marvel Studios did not sign Coogler up for a sequel to this.

The music within the film is fantastic. Being set in an African nation, there is of course many types of African music played throughout. One of the standout moments is the coronation scene. Then there is the soundtrack which is filled with hip hop. A less polished movie would not know how to integrate this. So instead of coming off like a bad music video, it worked effortlessly with the film.

The visual effects is where the film gets a little wonky. The introduction to Wakanda is one of the most visually breathtaking scenes in the film. But as the film goes on, the effects get less polished. The final action is the most egregious. A battle between two computer created men in cat suits. It doesn’t damn the film in any sort of major way. But it seems like they could have gone through another pass through render.

Overall, Black Panther is a great entry into the MCU. It explores a new avenue that will presumably help carry the franchise forward. The cast and crew brought their A game to the film and it shows. Nothing seemed phoned in and pride oozes through the screen that is infectious. It is a highly recommended film.

 

SCORE: 9.5/10

 

Advertisements

Justice League (2017) Review

Justice League has finally been released. It is the fifth entry in this DC movie universe. It is no real secret that this film had a lot of problems before and during the production of this movie. I wasn’t a big fan of Batman v. Superman but I didn’t hate it. I remember leaving the theater with the feeling that I needed to see the movie again because I was more confused than anything. It’s clear that the negative reception to that movie greatly affected this movie. So what did I think about this movie?

Justice-League-Banner-Superman

Justice League is good. It’s not great but good. The problems with the movie are there from the beginning with some of the choppy editing. It’s no secret that there was a studio mandate that this movie had to be two hours or under. The movie does achieve that but at the cost of some fundamentals. The plot was always seemingly paper thin with a simple alien invasion story. But with a lot of edits, the character building elements aren’t as fleshed out and ultimately hurts the film.

The actual Justice League team does work though. Seeing Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash is a joy to see. Each character does get a chance to shine. We are already familiar with Batman and Wonder Woman and their characters are expanded on here. Batman is now more self aware of what a jerk he has been and trying to redeem himself after the debacle with Superman. Wonder Woman has come out of the shadows and becoming a much more well known hero around the world. The Flash is probably the next to get the most development as he super speed makes him look like he has ADD. Being the one hero without actual battle skills, it was always a relief to see him get flustered at some of the going ons. His more goofy elements are balanced out with serious scenes with his incarcerated father. Cyborg is the most dour and rightfully so as he is no longer a man and doesn’t understand himself. He never gets too serious as you understand his frustrations and he is quick to help out as soon as trouble hits his door. Aquaman probably gets the least screen time out of the five. There is a quick exposition scene where you understand his backstory but that is a lot left on the table.

justice-league-superman-banner-1022284

Then there is the Superman of it all. It’s no secret that Superman is in the movie. Without giving much away, he is not in that movie that much. He’s also not in the movie too little either. The movie does get a kick in the pants once his character becomes much more of a focal point. We see varying degrees of Superman. We see a scary Superman that pretty much solidifies everyone’s fear of this alien. Then the Superman we have all wanted Henry Cavill to be finally shows up and it is a sight to see.

As mentioned earlier, the plot is a bit of a mess despite being a simple story. It would be interesting to see as to what this movie was actually like last year before all of the changes. It would also be interesting to see if they had delayed the movie to accommodate the changes more. There are a lot of characters moments that could have been elaborated on. This definitely could have worked for the villain; Steppenwolf. A fairly generic bad guy who only has one mode and that is world domination. That may be fine but there could have been some more character put into him.

Speaking of Steppenwolf, this is another problem and that is the CGI. A lot of the graphics looks rushed and shoddy. These are especially evident in the scenes that had to be added or reshot. There were some instances that took me out of the movie. None that were ever too bad where I couldn’t enjoy the film but still noticeable. Just another reason as to why the movie should have been delayed.

But what we are left with is an uneven but enjoyable film. It does have a lot of problems. When I left the theater I did not leave with the same feeling that I did when I left Batman v. Superman. I instead left with the feeling that I wanted to see it again because of how much I enjoyed the movie. Better yet, I wanted to see where they took these characters in future films. If you have a film universe, that is arguably a win.

GalleryMovies_1920x1080_JusticeLeague01_57be61d14b0303.09859959

SCORE: 7.5/10

Sexual Assault: We Might Have to Throw The Whole Hollywood Away

WE ARE GEEKS OF COLOR

As of late, social media and news outlets have become a flurry of sexual assault allegations and revelations by Hollywood talent. The first domino in this study of the mighty falling was Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by numerous women, so severely that he was not only fired from his own company but stripped of his membership at the Academy and pretty much detoxed from Hollywood. But several actors, producers, and directors have been accused since then, including Brett Ratner, Ben Affleck, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Andy Signore, Chris Savino, Roy Price, and several others. These allegations were overwhelmingly white at first, but that has since changed as John Singleton has entered the discussion.

harvey-weinstein-sexual-assult-allegations.jpg Photo credit: Variety

These assault allegations have made us all take a much harsher critical look at Hollywood and the kind of talent they have working in Tinseltown – because let’s face it, this situation isn’t…

View original post 873 more words

Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thor: Ragnarok is the third Thor film and the seventeenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Needless to say, the Thor movies are probably the more divisive films in the MCU. While the first Thor movie is generally well received. The Dark World is considered by many to be the worst entry in the franchise. While part of the Avengers, Thor is something of an afterthought. So now Thor is back with his third film and this time he brought along his fellow Avenger, The Incredible Hulk, with him. How does it fare?

thor-ragnarok-has-a-colorful-cast-of-characters.jpeg

It is certainly the best Thor film but that is some faint praise. After the events of Age of Ultron, Thor went searching in the cosmos for more information about the Infinity Stones. This film picks up with him captured and casually dismissing what he left for. Quickly shifting things back to Thor events, Thor learns about Loki impersonating Odin and then the two brothers go searching for their father but ran afoul of Hela, the Goddess of Death. Things quickly shift again with Thor and Loki ended up stranded on planet Sakaar where The Hulk now resides but under the thumb of The Grandmaster. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it was. It does feel like two distinct films smashed into one that doesn’t fully come together.

Taika Waititi, known mostly for comedic films, takes control of this Thor movie and it is a distinctly different Thor movie. It has been touted as a comedy and while there are a lot of comedic elements, it rang more as an adventure romp than a comedy. The comedy was better in this film than this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 but it took the wind out of a lot of stakes. Thor and Loki will have a dramatic conversation about their broken relationship and then a joke. This happens a lot in the film that it makes it hard to really care about some of the going ons.

gallery-1503312508-hulk-parade-valkyrie-thor-ragnarok.jpg

Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor and probably gives his best performance. They do deliver more of the comedic elements of the actor but he does have dramatic moments to help balance out. It is also better to have Thor take more charge of things instead of being at the whims of others. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and the character is the butt monkey of the movie. The studio doesn’t want him to be the villain that he was but know he can’t be forgiven or trusted so he is constantly getting belittled. Cate Blanchett comes in as Hela and is a basic MCU villain. If the actress wasn’t so charismatic, the character would one note. Tessa Thompson enters the franchise as Valkyrie and brings a nice new element as the enforcer for The Grandmaster with a connection to Asgard’s past. Jeff Goldblum is doing his typical Jeff Goldblum thing but in a way that is not obnoxious and still gets across the potential menace of his character. Idris Elba probably gets the most to do as Heimdall in this movie but it is still undeserving of the actor. Karl Urban is another actor deserving of much more as he serves a forgettable role as Skurge. Anthony Hopkins is pretty much a non entity as Odin. Mark Ruffalo gets his most to do since taking over the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk. Hulk is now a talking character and akin to a toddler while Banner shows a different side to him. There are some interesting questions brought up about the Banner/Hulk dynamic that will hopefully carry over to the upcoming Avengers films.

thorragnarok-hulk-gladiator2

Ragnarok is probably the most beautiful looking MCU film. There are bright colors and gorgeous looking sets. Even though Sakaar is a trash planet, there are some great looking designs. This is our third time seeing Asgard and it is a still a sight to see. The only questionable looking scene is one set on Earth at Norway. It is obvious that it was a reshoot with the shoddy CGI background that takes away some of the gravitas taking place during the scene.

809d60adb7c23c434170b224c32ec5c7bace7f43.jpg

Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is a very good film. I will not say that it is great. It works as a soft reboot to the Thor character. It will be interesting to see where they take the character past this film. But as a whole, it’s a solid but heavily flawed film where the cracks become noticeable the more you think about it. The biggest problem coming out is, you still really have no idea who Thor is. Marvel Studios has dropped the ball with this character and franchise.

SCORE: 8/10

Not Doing Well Mentally

Today I find myself just drained. It may because I’m slightly under the weather. But various things have popped up over the past few days where I go back into that dark place. One where I’m completely alone and have no one to turn to.

First let me say that I love all my friends. Those I know I can depend on for pretty much. I’m glad they are in my life. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. 

But every time I seemingly try and get to know new people I’m taken to that dark place. I hate being told how “great I am” amd whatnot. But then treated like I don’t exist right after. I know people have their own lives but I know the difference between busy and avoidance. I don’t know why peoole can’t be very clear. I’m an adult. I can handle someone telling me that they don’t want anything to do with me.

These feelings are heightened due to certain revelations coming out. One where I was pretty much a sucker. Got me thinking that is that the only time people are interested in me? When I can get them something?

It’s just been an awful day. I know these posts can come off ad whiny. But they make me feel better. Let’s hope I feel better tomorrow.

The Last Jedi Trailer Takeaway

The final trailer for The Last Jedi is here and all those rumors about Rian Johnson warning people to be wary of the trailer were just that. Rumors. It was a good trailer but it doesn’t give away anything that people couldn’t have already figured out in their head.

  • The trailer opens up on a shot of an unmasked Kylo Ren overlooking manufacturing of some sort. We hear Supreme Leader Snoke’s narration talking about how when he saw, presumably Kylo, there was nothing but raw and untamed power. This is all intercut with looks to be the start of The Battle of Crait and Kylo leading First Order troopers. There is a final shot of Kylo picking up his lightsaber in a kneeling position, as he is probably talking to Snoke as we can see Snoke’s guards in the background.
  • Finally a shot of Rey lighting up Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber. Unless something changes, it will presumably be hers from now on.
  • A voiceover from Rey comes on talking about her unfamiliarity with the Force and how it has always been there but is now awake and now she needs help. This is all intercut with scenes of her training and with a hesitant Luke Skywalker who does not seem to be pleased to see his father’s lightsaber.
  • A scene of Rey just touching the ground gently and making rock crack with her powers and a shocked expression on Luke’s face. This is a great scene just to show how powerful Rey is to Luke who once had great potential.
  • Luke finally speaks and how Rey’s raw strength terrifies him as he had seen it before in his nephew and it didn’t scare him then. This is cut with scenes of Luke escaping from rubble and looking upon the burning of his Jedi temple. Something that was briefly glimpsed in The Force Awakens. tumblr_oxn3iwyRKh1v734zlo4_540.gif
  • Another narration by Kylo Ren comes in and we see scenes of him flying his personal TIE fighter. I’m not too familiar or really care about the ships of Star Wars but it looks cool and reminiscent of his grandfather’s own Jedi/Empire ships. The narration makes it once again known that he is trying to “cleanse” himself of the past as he is attacking a Resistance ship. It might be a misdirect but the trailer makes it out to look like his mother, Leia, is his target. The conflicted look on Kylo’s face leads credence to that but it could be a misdirect. But the narration hints that Kylo is still conflicted and has not taken to the Dark Side like he would have wanted. The scenes are all cut with scene of Leia and Kylo seemingly sensing one another through the Force with a heartbroken look on Leia’s face as her son has become her father.
  • tumblr_oxn1poZ1Jf1v1sb4jo1_1280.jpgA scene plays of Chewbacca in the passenger side of the Millenium Falcon growling while a Porg tries to imitate him. Note that they do not show who is piloting the Falcon.
  • Finally we hear from Poe Dameron and probably gets the line of the trailer. “We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn The First Order down”
  • A confrontation between Finn and Captain Phasma is shown with the two dueling. Finn was the one who got away and embarrassed Phasma in the previous movie. There is no way that she is pleased about her former student and if you read either her book or comic, she is not one to leave grudges standing. tumblr_oxllbvCvLf1ue779no2_400
  • More scenery shots which are really highlighting the war between The Resistance and The First Order.
  • “This is not going to go the way you think” is spoken to Luke to Rey after what looks like a bad training session.
  • “Fulfill your destiny” is spoken by Snoke and we see the Supreme Leader in the (CG) flesh for the first time. Holding his hand out and he looks to be torturing Rey with the Force.
  • tumblr_oxnyfjjvdU1sjrad6o5_540.gif“I need someone to show me my place in all this” is spoken by Rey as she is looking towards someone. That someone is Kylo Ren who extends his hand. Now this is the only clear misdirect I can definitively say. The lighting between the two is totally different as they are not in the same shot. Rey’s face is lit by either a sunrise or sunset due to the angle. The lighting on Kylo’s is due to the fire going on around him. But it is a nice misdirect that might play out in the movie but not in that way. It also is a callback to the previous film where Kylo did offer to teach her. That closes out the trailer with John Williams’ great score playing behind it.

All in all it was a great trailer. I’m not someone who fears spoilers as I think if a story relies too much on spoilers, then it’s a bad story. I didn’t feel like I saw too much and in fact I’m more intrigued. There looks to be a lot going on. The main plot is obviously going to be about Rey/Kylo with Luke and Snoke as their mentors. But what exactly is The First Order planning on doing in this movie? We know that Finn is going undercover to put a halt to their plans. There are still actors we have yet to see like Benecio del Toro and Laura Dern. As much as we claim to know, there is a lot more than we actually do.

Justice League Trailer Takeaway

The final trailer for Justice League has arrived and there’s not much else new to it. If you’ve seen other trailers, it’s just really expanded sequences. Honestly, I still don’t even know what this movie is about. It looks to be a simple invasion movie, which might work best with all the characters in the movie. But here we go:

  • Superman-JusticeLeague.png Superman is back! Well sort of. Everyone knows that Superman will be back in this film but the trailer finally gives something to chew on. Of course it is presented as a dream sequence for the grieving Lois Lane. But what if this is not a dream sequence but actually the end of the movie?
  • The beginning of the trailer deals with the continuing repercussions from the “death” of Superman. Crime and various other bad things throughout the world have gone out of control.
  • More narration from Bruce Wayne/Batman about his nightmare from Batman v. Superman and how he foresaw the end of the world
  • There is a flashback to an ancient battle with the forces of Apokolips fighting the Amazons along with other forces from Earth. It looks like the goal is to terraform the Earth into another Apokolips.
  • Batman and Wonder Woman look to be the leaders of the team or at the very least the lynchpins
  • Various soundbites play about how none of the members can do what they do alone and they’re stronger together. There are quick shots of each of the heroes doing their thing. The world needs Superman.
  • Throughout we see the various members of the Justice League (minus Superman) in various action scenes, many with the members confronting Steppenwolf himself.
  • Again we never get a clear shot of Steppenwolf. Only quick glimpses. Though Steppenwolf is a CG character, I’m at least glad there is threat that the team has to fight. Not just an army of goons but there is a figurehead there that can talk to them.
  • The final scene is really just a scene about how giddy Barry Allen is to be teaming up with Bruce Wayne as he spots the Bat-signal in the sky.

Overall, it was a decent trailer. I’m already set in my ways to see the movie. I was genuinely shocked to see Clark Kent/Superman show up. But since it was presumably a dream sequence, they can have their cake and eat it too. But solid trailer and not to quote the tagline but I’m all in.