Review : Black Panther

“T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.”

At this point, Black Panther has done something not many movies can claim, and it’s not all the money it’s making, it’s that it has become more than just a movie, it’s become a movement. So much has been put on this movie because of its almost entirely black cast, and its African centric content. It’s gotten to the point where wether or not this movie is good as a movie is more or less irrelevant, and just like the movie itself, that’s good and bad. There are many areas where Black Panther really stands up as a movie and makes a statement, and there are things that let it down a bit. To start with this is definitely the most political comic book movie ever made, and it’s very bold in its subject matter. It tackles black issues from basically the beginning of Africa to current day, and it does so by mostly raising discussion, but it does also offer some words or wisdom if not answers about them. But this movie is still also a movie, and as a movie it has an entirely separate section of obligations to attend to. The cast here is really excellent, everyone does s great job at the personal and interpersonal relationships between characters, and the subtle things that make them all different. One of the biggest complaints lodged about MCU movies are the villains, and Michael B Jordan’s “Killmonger” is at the same time a break from their typical villain typecast, and yet even he shares some of the issues of those very characters. In many ways Killmonger is the antithesis of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa. They come from opposite side of the same tracks (a metaphor terned visual by the end) in their view of the world, but they still want similar ends, just by vastly different means. Killmonger also has very strong and very well motivated moral convictions, that force us and T’Challa to change how they look at the world, and in this manner he is successful, where that character breaks down, is in the inevitability of him become a Black Panther to fight Black Panther. In so many of these movies we get villains that are reduced to being a different colour or style of our hero, whereas all the really great villains of the MCU become more than that. That’s all not to say I didn’t like his character or Jordan’s portrayal of him, Killmonger was always truly poignant and decisive in his actions, but I can’t not see that he still added to that trend of MCU villains. I see any criticism of this film has been treated as a strike against all the great things this movie can mean and create, and I wish it only success, but this is s movie review, and when I see issues I have to raise them. Outside of what this movie brings politically and culturally, the thing that this movie is missing to be at the level of say the top 5 movies of it kind is that it’s missing that real stand out moment that will have the average viewer wanting to rewatch this movie. Black Panther is a great movie, and it’s a mold breaker in many ways, but it’s not a mold breaker just as a movie. I feel very much about this movie as I did about the first Guardians of the Galaxy, that it’s something we haven’t seen before in many ways, but it’s still has some of the pitfalls that can plague movies like this. Black Panther has the pressure on it of having to be great movie, a great political piece, and a great comic book movie. And honestly, it should be commended for what’s its done in all of those arenas, but some that pressure and those expectations are a blessing and a curse. Everyone should see this movie for its messages. Anyone who’s a fan of these movies should see it also. Wether this movie should be judged just on its merits as a film, or on something more isn’t for me to say, but I have tried my best to explain how it made me feel, and the enjoyment I certainly had with it.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

There are also two end credit scenes just a FYI.

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Review : Maze Runner – The Death Cure

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“Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.”

So The Death Cure is the third and final movie in the Maze Runner trilogy, and you know what, I think this movie deserves a lot of credit, a lot more than I think its likely to get. For a while there, there was a real glut of YA, dystopian future movies on the market, and one of those franchises was The Maze Runner. If you pardon my pun, on paper, the maze runner might have been the franchise with the lowest ceiling, in that I think it had the smallest fanbase, and least hype, but from that situation, I think we’ve gotten the most consistent, even if not the best, of these franchises. Over the past three movies, these movies have managed to keep on track I think the most, and they were able to stay on target better than those other franchises, and most of all, it let this series finish strongly. The Death Cure sees the return of the entire cast here, and it picks up a little while after the second movie ended, and from the start it really does get to it. Another thing this movie really deserves a lot of credit for, is its world building, and its visual effects. Lets not forget, this movie has a $62 million dollar budget, which is half of the budget of some of the movies it was made to compete against, and from visual effects, to practical effects, to just simply make-up effects, this movie really does look amazing. There is also a lot of really good acting in here. This cast does have some very good dramatic actors, and they are given their moments to really act, and it comes across really well. Even the typical love triangle stuff we’ve grown to get used to, is done I think here, as good as it could have been done I think. They give those emotional moments just the right amount of time, and the right amount of dramatic purpose that allow them enough time to work, but not enough to get over done. This movie is maybe 2 years later than it should have been, because of the really unfortunate accident involving Dylan O’Brien on set, and I’m sure that might drop its box office total a bit, but I think this movie is worth being the finale of this series. All in all, I think The Death Cure is a really solid stand alone movie, and is even a bit better when you consider how strongly it ends this trilogy, especially compared to some others. It gives the main cast here I think also a really nice send off onto their next projects. Just had to let it be said also, I am 100% team Brenda. I do have a huge crush on Rosa Salazar, but that aside, just her character alone would be enough to make me team Brenda, but I must say, I do get why Teresa made the decisions she made, so for once it isn’t one of those ridiculous kinds of love triangles, and another thing I really just needed to shout out about this movie.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10

Review : Call Me by Your Name

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“In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.”

I think maybe, the best way I can describe this movie, is thats it like a really fancy or expensive perfume. At first, you’re not even sure you’ve smelled anything, but slowly as it lingers around you its get to a point where you only realise how much you were smiling and enjoying it, when it moves away, and thats what Call Me by Your Name. This movie though, is a really different kind of movie. Its not structured like your typical film, its supremely slow paced (like frustratingly slow at some times), the cinematography and sound design is supremely “low rent” in appearance, but clearly done so to give it a really “real” feel. This film is also both really subtle, and yet really graphic. It portrays romance, in anyway, as the true combination of long periods of gentle warmth, wrapped around a burning fire. There are so many moments, where you really feel the gut wrench of some of the more emotional scenes, and while the directing is supremely deft in its handling of these moments, I feel like there can’t be enough credit given to the acting here. The acting here is truly phenomenal. They get to such a level of rawness and vulnerability, that I would love to have known how these characters were able to get to these places and bring such raw emotion to their characters. To be honest, there’s literally only one thing about this movie that I can consider a flaw, but I don’t even know if to call it a flaw, or simply a decision that didn’t sit well with me, and thats there are some times (not many at all) when I found the movie got to a level of being some what pretentious, and like I said that could really just be an issue I have with those moments, but its the only thing that I can really say I wish was done differently. Call Me by Your Name is one of those movies where it felt like the level of craftsmanships here is just on another level, and I feel like this movie is going to get a tonne of award nominations, and will probably later in time be one of those movies that are discussed and dissected in film making classes.

Review Score : 9.5 out of 10

Review : Molly’s Game

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“The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.”

Molly’s Game is the film adaptation of a book by the real Molly Bloom, the adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin, and also directed by Aaron Sorkin, and it shows. Like most everything he writes, the dialogue and the movie itself is really sharp and cutting in a way that really jumps off the screen and makes a lot of the dialogue very memorable. That dialogue and the sharpness of the script really does allow for the actors to deliver some really great acting here, and above all, I think thats the stand out of this film. This movie and this story is a really fascinating story, especially because its all true, and its just an amazing series of events that lead this woman down the path it did. And I think all of that being already there, allowed for the actors themselves to really focus on acting, and not trying to pull the story along or anything like that. Between Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba alone, we get some genuinely award worthy performances here, and thats not even including the laundry list of other actors who have smaller, but no less impactful roles. I don’t think this movie is anything supreme in its directing, and maybe Sorkin should still more to handing his scripts of to better directors, but he certainly doesn’t downgrade the material, and he doesn’t make the movie any less good and enjoyable.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Review : Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle

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“Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.”

What do you get when you take a movie from 20 years ago, update it for a modern audience, add the current leading actors in comedy and action, and add a tag line to the original name? You get Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle, and you get a movie thats much more entertaining and funny that it really has any right to be. Jumanji 2 takes the concept of the original movie, and updates it to a concept thats fits a little better with a modern younger audience, and it does so in a way that genuinely works. It also allows for the movie to introduce some new concepts, that weren’t present in the first movie, that allow this movie to evolve and give it an entirely new set of tools to work with. Using the new setup of the game avatars, the movies allows for two different sets of main casts, and it also allows for the avatar cast, to play roles different to those they may be known for. That allowed for this movie to be much funnier than I though it would be, but it also doesn’t shy away from the action and adventure side of the Jumanji franchise that its really known for. All of these things together make for a movie that was really much more entertaining that I would have ever guessed, and it makes for a really pleasant cinema experience that I thin is perfect for this time of year.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Trailer of the Week!

Yes its back, because finally we have something worth it (and I see you all rolling your eyes because yes I know the amazing infinity war trailer came out, but come on we knew it was coming).

Alita Battle Angel

Now this one might be a bit polarising, but I think thats going to be a good thing, and actually help the buss behind this movie. So Alita Battle Angel is the latest from director Robert Rodriguez and is based on a popular manga series titled Battle Angel (western name), and sees Rosa Salazar in the title role…kind of.

The first thing most people will notice about this movie, is the look of its protagonist, and she is a motion capture role, and even though this is a live action movie, she in particular will be noticeably CGI because of some very distinct design choices made here. I am of course talking about her anime inspired eyes, that make her look and feel like a doll come to life, for better or worse. Its one of those things where I can really only say that she was CGI because of the eyes, I even thought maybe it was just her eyes, but I’m not sure how main stream audiences will react to something like that.

This movie also boasts a really strong supporting cast, with the likes of Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali to name a few. Will this combination of talent both in front and behind the camera, when paired with material that has already has its own fan base finally see one of these kinds of movies succeed? Or will this be another Ghost in the Shell situation, and probably heap even more pressure onto the shoulder of the Akira live action project.

Wrap Up : The Punisher

When you think about The Punisher, you probably think about a gun toting, skull vest wearing, everyone killing, shootemup action type movie or series….what we got however, is so much more. We have now gotten the full compliment of Marvel Netflix character series, and the one thing they all have in common, is that when they work best, they work because they go the route of character study. And thats what The Punisher is, its a 13 episode character study, on Frank Castle, and what it takes to forge such a man. This series accomplishes this, by giving us multiple characters that are pulled from the same crucible, and giving them time and space to see how each reacts, and why. If what you wanted from The Punisher was 13 hours of full auto weapons and head shots, go watch Punisher War Zone like 6 times in a row. If you just like really good content, keep reading.

The Punisher is a real thoughtful series (never thought I’d say that), and its one of the series I think actually benefitted from the 13 episode run, unlike some that should have been cut to 8 or 10. This full 13 hours also gives the time these characters need to become fully developed, and thats really the thing that makes this so good. Both Frank, and other characters like Micro are given time to develop, but more importantly, the villains (yes plural) are given just as much time to be fully fleshed out and allow them to have meaningful motivation and an actually dangerous skillset. All of this means we really care about what happens to who and when. There are some characters here that I don’t really care for, but the show did definitely do a great job of having those characters grow on me, so even if I still didn’t like them by the end, I at least had some more respect for them and their motivations.

There is action here though, I mean there had to be, and its the kind of real and gritty, hands in the mud kind of action I wanted and expected. Frank is just a man of course, and its nice that even though he might be better than his foes, he still is only capable of the things a human can do, and he’s made to bleed. There are some scenes further down the series that I can describe only as “graphic”, so if thats an issue, just be on the look out. This series also does really really well to give the punisher his own little world, and the rules of that world make sense and things happen as a result of other things in a way that also makes sense. That does make the punisher feel at least like the most insulated of the Marvel Netflix shows, and we do get some cross over character work, but really only because of previous character building from Daredevil season 2. Its nice that they didn’t force more cross over, but it would have been nice to have some more nods maybe to the larger Netlfix universe this series finds itself in.

The Punisher is definitely not what I expected it to be. To get all these themes that come with war and being a soldier and ptsd and the works, wrapped so nicely and intricately around a comic book character is really a nice surprise. Jon Bernthal gives us such a layered, damaged and complex character that he will definitely become the embodiment of what people expect from this character going forward. His supporting cast does a great job here also, and I’m sure much praise has to go the writing of this show, for giving these characters so much room to grow, and the time to do it. I think I would rank The Punisher currently as my second favourite of all the Marvel Netflix shows, and I can’t wait to hear about season 2.