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 : Pitch Perfect 3

“Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.”

So this movie may be many things, and none of them is amazing, but what this movie does have to offer is entertainment. Now that entertainment may definitely be geared towards people who are already fans of the series, but it’s the third movie, and I can’t really blame them. This movie feels like, it was given less money, and it certainly has less talent directing wise, it has a smaller cast, and its definitely scaled back, but beneath all of that, is a lot of the same funny writing from the movies before. Trish Sie, is a fine and competent director, but she just doesn’t do anything to try and elevate this movie, and maybe there isn’t anything to elevate, but I can only go off what I saw. The singing and dancing of course is back, but this also doesn’t feel as go for broke as the movies before. The one area where I think this movie doesn’t seem pulled back, is in the comedy, and that’s really the thing that saves this movie. Like I said before, a lot of that humor might be directed at fans of the series, but I am a fan of the series, and this movie is very entertaining and has some genuinely funny moments. This movie doesn’t end the pitch perfect series on a high, but I think it does enough to remind us why the previous movies were so well received, and it’s perfect for s night out, where a laugh is the main goal. Fans of the series might like this one a bit more than neutrals, but I think there is entertainment enough here for everyone.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Review : The Greatest Showman

“Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.”

The Greatest Showman is one of those movies, that if you let it, can really take you on a journey. Hugh Jackman has been a big component of theater and was himself a theater actor. So you know a movie like this is really near and dear to his heart, and I think it shows greatly in his performance here. He truly embodies what it takes to be the type of person it takes to do what P.T Barnum had done. That combination of child like wonder, a passion that boards on obsession, and ability to see what lies beneath. Of course being like that can lead to ups and down and Barnum is not exception as he tries to navigate the restrictive and prudish world of his time. Add to that, a star studded and talented cast, filled with many actually performers, and you have everything you need for a great and wonderful ride. This movies is really visually wonderful, and from the opening frame and number, we get the perfect example of the kind of movie we’re going to get, and the kind we can expect. This movie is a musical, which I thought was obvious, but from the reactions of some of the audience it clearly wasn’t as obvious as I assumed. That being said, this is a musical, and as a musical, it does have a number of musical and dance numbers throughout it. Some are definitely better than others, but over all there is a nice cohesion and feeling to them. They may not be the most memorable songs ever penned, but they do well to fill the scenes they are attached to, and the emotions they are meant to imbue. This movie is like a love letter to the circus and to performing, but in all the best ways (and not like Jenny Lin), and it paints a wonderful picture of the excitement and atmosphere of those shows of the past. All in all, The Greatest Showman, is a movie for people who feel as warmly about the movies subject matter, as the movie does. If you let this movie take you were it wants to take you, you will have a great ride, and a great show.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Review : Star Wars – The Last Jedi

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“Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.”

It’s finally here, and even when that opening crawl started, I still felt kind like it wasn’t real, but it was, and …wow. This movie gave me so much of what I wanted, while also not giving me so much of what I wanted, and it truly feels like an entirely new entry in the saga (also steel pan is officially canon in Star Wars). This is most definitely the most different Star Wars ever made, and even when you look at the character development from The Force Awakens to now (which isn’t actually that much time), they take so many of these characters in such different places that I would have never seen coming. Rian Johnson also was able to do something that we don’t often get with these kind of movies, and that’s that he was able to do and show us things that we have never seen in a Star Wars movie before (its also super funny). And that was truly a sight to behold, especially since some of those things, are things we may have considered before, but we have never gotten any canonical version of them, but here, we do. It feels almost needless to say, but this movie is absolutely stunning in its visuals, and it also does some things with its visuals, that no other Star Wars movie has ever done either, and they literally had my entire screen gasp, and to have that happen more than once, was really impressive to see. He also lends I think, the most distinct directorial voice ever in a Star Wars movie. That voice also stretches clearly into the story here, and the story elements that he adds to this long mythology. There really is soooooo much here to dig into, and so many complex situations and decisions, that whether or not you like those decisions, you have no choice I think but to respect the boldness of them. Even down to the Force itself, and what the Force means, is given new and slightly different life here. There is A LOT here I really can’t go into without going over copious spoilers, but just know there are many many surprises in here, and its best to try your best to go into the movie as fresh as possible. A huge part of this movie is also of course the characters, and there really is a great deal of character development here for so many of the characters. And this movie isn’t afraid to make characters make bold decisions and then stick by them. That in itself, is probably the best way to describe this entire movie, and thats Bold. The same way many people found Force Awakens polarising for being very similar to episode 4, many people I feel might also have a similar issue with this movie but in the opposite direction. Carrie Fisher I think also really delivers an amazing performance here that operates on multiple levels, and was really touching and saddening to see given her tragic and untimely death. This movie however, is going to derive most of its controversy from the way it portrays and handles Luke Skywalker. I can’t go over it here, but I definitely will post separately about it. All in all, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an amazing movie, but as a Star Wars movie, is going to be polarising because of its creative choices, and even I’m not fully sure how I feel about many of those moments.

Review Score : 9 out of 10

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.

Review : Justice League

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“Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.”

So, this movie, and its production has gone through a lot. Family tragedy that caused director Zack Snyder to have to take a leave from the production, the entry of Joss Whedon to finish the film, a cgi top lip fiasco, studio interference in many ways and much more. I say all that because going into this movie, I had the mindset of, if this movie is good I’d be genuinely impressed that they were able to pull all of this together. And there is a lot that they were able to pull off, and some they weren’t. To start, this movie doesn’t feel like its directed by two directors, but it does feel like it was edited by committee, and thats a bit of an issue. Joss Whedon has a writing credit on this movie, so he definitely had to have re-written at least a third of the movie, and it shows in the dialogue that sticks out, and more things at the end of the movie, where I think most of the re-shoot changes really occur. Man of Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad, you can say what you want about these movies, one thing you can’t say, is that they’re not bold, because they are, and this movie loses that boldness in favour of a more “tame” version of what we’ve gotten before. Now thats definitely going to add a lot of mass appeal to the movie, but it might lose it much of its deeper credibility. All of that is not to say that this movie isn’t entertaining, it certainly is, and there are so many surprise and stand out moments that leap straight off the page and give you that incredible I never thought I’d see that in a movie feeling, but I still would have liked to have seen those moments through the bold lens of the movies before it. They are some plot holes for sure, and there is another villain who’s motivations are sort of lost on us, there’s the lip, but despite all of that, there is so much here that we know and love from these characters, and that’s where the movie shines brightest. You can say what you want about Zack Snyder, but the man has style, and he definitely has an eye for casting, and this team is casted very well. The surprise stand out of these is actually Cyborg, his portrayal of the character and his exploration into being part man and part machine was fantastic. The movie does run at a bit of a break neck pace, but it was literally mandated to be under two hours (its like one minute less), and the solution they went with was clearly to cut some of the more subtle character building moments, especially some of which were teased in trailers. Also I must say, the score for this movie is done by Danny Elfman, and he’s certainly a great composer, but his work seems so Saturday morning cartoonish when compared to what we got before from the likes of Junkie XL, that it really fell flat for me. They also made some kind of different version of the Wonder Woman theme (Is she with you? from BvS), and that was a real bummer for me as I was just waiting for it to come blasting on in her opening action scene. His score does definitely bring up some good ole nostalgia, but do we really need to keep going back to certain wells? All in all it might seem like I’m being really down on this movie, and I’m really not. Just like I had said in review for Thor Ragnorok, the movie sacrifices some substance for style (in this case that boldness and real grit of the previous movies), but I can’t for one second say that I wasn’t entertained, or that the things that were done right, weren’t really exciting to see. Justice League feels like a step in a different direction than maybe I personally wished they had gone with the franchise as a whole, but the movie does deliver a lot of the things I wanted from a movie like this. And maybe one day I’ll get to see all those cut scenes. (Also just as a side note, I’m not a huge fan of the new super suit, liked the darker one more).

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Also I feel like I have to address it, this movie does make some less than progressive choices with female characters. They don’t come off so egregious as you might think, but they are definitely there, and they are definitely distinct choices. I know many people are trying to blame Snyder for this, and he probably has to take the blame for the more glammed up look of the Amazons, when compared to the Wonder Woman movie, but the impactful moments of this I thought were in moments of dialogue and character decisions, all of which I’m willing to bet were down the re-writes and re-shoots from Whedon. I wish Zack was able to give us his unblemished version of this movie, and we might never know what and who changed what, but I think its at least comforting to know that a lot of those issues that arose, were fought against by the cast and crew, and maybe going forward these kinds of issues can become less and less, as we can not have to talk about them at all one day.