Black Panther Review

Black Panther

If you would look at the superhero genre, it’s obvious that there hasn’t been a lot of black superhero movies. Either they have been horrible (“Steel”) or good but forgotten through time (Blade). Now with the silver age of comic book movies, it’s about time we got a proper black superhero movie. With “Black Panther”, not only do we get a great movie for the Marvel Cinematic Universe but a grand film for cinema.
“Black Panther” is set immediately after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) now becomes the new king of Wakanda. He must balance the duties of being the Black Panther and a king as a new enemy threaten his nation.
Chadwick Boseman is very dynamic and powerful as T’Challa. He immediately gives off a vibe of being majestic and powerful without speaking too much. Yet we do get to see a side to him that humanizes as someone who’s unsure of what kind of leader he wants to be. Just as they said in the movie, a great king needs to surround themselves with great people and that’s exactly the case.
Kudos to Marvel for having a large majority of the cast be black. There’s just so many people to highlight. We have Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker bringing amazing star power to an already powerful film. Perhaps the one that steals the show is Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister. She has this youthful energy to her and easily has some of the funniest parts.
Even know this movie is rich with a great ensemble, perhaps the most important character is Wakanda itself. The first act is devoted to sharing its rich culture and why they’re the most technologically advanced nation in the world. Some might say it’s slow but the world building is necessary. We need a reason why Wakanda is so sought after.
Now with a majority of the M.C.U films, there are common flaws in each movie. Fans have often complained about the lack of dynamic villains and a lackluster score. But the director, Ryan Coogler did his best to turn these faults into fantastic achievements.
You have Michael B Jordan as Killmonger who’s worthy as one of the top villains. One method of making a successful antagonist is having their motivations relatable. As the movie unravels, you not only feel sympathetic for Killmonger but sometimes root for him because his beliefs are justified.
Overlaying all of this is an exciting score by Ludwig Goransson. Besides having great action beats, there’s a quieter powerful tone when we’re at Wakanda. Goransson actually went to Africa for research to keep the African authenticity in his piece. We hear African instruments, war drums, and chants that really make this score stand out in the best way.
“Black Panther” is definitely a game changer for all the right reasons. We have a great predominantly black cast led by a black director, something you, unfortunately, don’t see in blockbusters. I’m sure after this movie makes a ton of money, we’ll see some much-needed changes in the future. If they’re of a similar quality as “Black Panther” then cinema is going to have a good future ahead.

Grade: A

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The Shape of Water Review

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Recently, “The Shape of Water” racked up 13 nominations for the 90th Academy Awards. It’s directed by Guillermo del Toro who has become a name stay for cinematic art and has become an auteur in his own right. When watching the movie, there’s no question why it has so many nominations.

This is a Del Toro movie that’s just dripping with beautiful atmosphere and has a bit of that fairy tale edge to it. You have Eliza (Sally Hawkins) falling love but it’s not traditional as she falls in love with the monster. Which isn’t a bad thing because you really do feel for them. The chemistry that Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones have especially with all the makeup is marvelous. We feel passionate about the monster because of Del Toro dedication to showing what he likes about them.

We see discrimination of minorities, people with disabilities and homosexuals as the monster gets treated badly because of his uncertain appearance. It’s not done in an overtly preachy way as the message gets through without comprising the characters and story.

Speaking of characters, this is a great assemble. Sally Hawkins is glowing despite being mute and having no speaking lines. She conveys a variety of emotions without ever speaking. That might seem like a simple task because Hawkins makes it effortless. Combine with the wonderful chemistry she has with everyone especially Jones makes her a frontrunner for Best Actress. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer show why they got nominated for their great supporting roles. Both of them not only support Eliza but support the movie even know there’s no need for assistance.

The score composed by Alexandre Desplat is amazing. Never have I quickly went to Spotify just to download the entire score. It has this French and Italian romantic feel to it.

Guillermo del Toro always has this fascination with monsters and it’s brought to life in “The Shape of Water.” Every element is knocked out of the park to deliver one of the best films of 2017. Definitely, check it out before the Oscar’s.

Grade: A

Call Me by Your Name Review

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There’s a special quality to a film that presents itself as if you were actually with them. To not only feel the character’s emotions but feeling like you’re in the scene itself. “Call Me by Your Name” does a very skillful job of capturing this feeling by presenting an alluring summer romance in Northern Italy.
17-year-old Elio Perlman is with his family at their home in Northern Italy. He meets Oliver, a doctoral student who lives with them for summer as an intern for his father. Their initial flirtation blooms into something more as Elio and Oliver discover feelings for each other.
Driving this passion is Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Both of them have fantastic chemistry together that glows on the screen. Despite the character’s age difference, it doesn’t feel predatory as you might think. Instead, I felt every emotion with them from the joy they share to gut-wrenching moments. This relationship has so complicated layers that it feels so refreshing when we see each one unfolds. Chalamet gives this very restraint performance that’s so powerful as he opens up to Oliver. He will absolutely be nominated for Best Actor and is definitely in the winning for the win.
Another standout is Michael Stuhlbarg who quickly is becoming the supporting actor of 2017 with roles in “The Post” and “Shape of Water.” He plays Elio dad who understands and supports his son. There’s one scene with him that leaves you floored. It plays to the theme of not just acceptance from others but understanding yourself and positively accepting that.
What the director, Luca Guadagnino, does well is having shots that last a bit too long. That might seem like a bad thing but it works to his advantage. We feel like a fly on the wall watching the scenes play out. This helps us feel immerse with the characters and gravitate us to what they’re feeling.
“Call Me by Your Name” is finally playing nearby and you need to see it immediately. What starts as a summer romance turns into a beautiful message about accepting yourself. It left me with emotionally stunned as I saw this breathtaking movie play out with the acting and directing. Each time I think about the film, there has to be a pause to not let myself be overwhelmed with such emotion. Easily one of the top movies that came out in 2017 that should be on your watch list.
Grade: A

All the Money in the World Review

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It’s impossible to say anything about “All The Money In The World” without mentioning Kevin Spacey. Originally he was cast as J. Paul Getty but after serval allegations of sexual assault, Ridley Scott did the unprecedented. He recast Christopher Plummer right before the movie was released and reshot a good chunk of the movie in just 9 days. After seeing the film, this just adds another achievement to Scott’s legendary career.

All the Money In The World centers around the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) so billionaire grandfather (Christopher Plummer) can pay the hefty ransom. When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail (Michelle Williams) attempts to sway him as the captors get more impatient and start to threaten Charlie. With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) team up to convince Getty and get Charlie back home safely.

Let’s get this out of the way, Christopher Plummer is fantastic. Besides being a legendary talent, he brings a lot of depth to Getty. He’s stern and cares only about his money but there’s a sympathetic reason why. It was a great decision to bring Plummer on board especially learning the character in a short amount of time. Also, give a lot of credit to Ridley Scott. To not only make this huge change as he wouldn’t want Spacey’s action to affect the film’s hard work. What makes it even better is the move was successful and didn’t feel awkward as some other extensive reshoots have felt.

Don’t let Plummer overshadow the other performances because they also do a great job. Michelle Williams playing a desperate Mom trying to get her son back was powerful. Williams. Mark Wahlberg also did a good job and was pretty charming. A big surprise was Romain Duris performance as Cinquanta. He plays the kidnapper but does it without being stereotypical. There’s some depth to him and we see that slowly unfold throughout the film.

This would be a Grade A movie but the pacing was off. At some points, you think the movie is over but it keeps on going. This isn’t just one incident but several. It just drags the movie out to a point where you’re checking out the time.

When the movie doesn’t get dragged out, it’s marvelous to watch. The acting is dynamic especially when you consider the very last minute reshoots that was done. Definitely check it out when you get the chance

Grade: B

Lady Bird Review

Better Lady Bird

There are only a few legendary movies that get a 100% percent on Rotten Tomatoes. This year, we had “Get Out” be at 100 percent until it got dropped down to 99%. Another movie, “Lady Bird” recently got to 100% until it got down to 99. Sometimes this kind of hype can actually set expectations too high and kill a movie if it doesn’t live up to standards. But after seeing it, “Lady Bird” not only delivers on this hype but it deserves every single amount of praise.
Lady Bird centers around Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) during her senior year of high school. She lives in (county) and wants to move to New York despite ok grades and not a lot of money. We get to see Lady Bird relationships with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), best friend (Beanie Feldstein), and possible love interests.
This movie is just filled with positives and the greatest is Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird. Her character is not perfect, in fact very flawed. Yet Saoirse Ronan delivers such charm and brings this likability to her. Every moment on screen just sucks me in even more.
It’s great that Ronan has a fantastic supporting cast to elevate her performance. Metcalf gave one of her best performances as the mother and daughter relationship was the strongest. It’s great that sometimes both sides are at fault. There isn’t a “bad guy”, both just have different viewpoints that you can understand. The best friendship with Beanie Feldstein captures the essence of real friendship. It honestly looks like one of mine own. Sometimes they get into fights but their bond is tight and enjoyable to watch. Another standout has to be Lucas Hedges who is slowly becoming a bigger name. He was nominated for his role in “Manchester by the Sea”. Now he’s in this and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. Definitely look out for Hedges in the future.
Speaking of future big names, Greta Gerwig does a fantastic job writing and directing. With some of the shots, it’s the perfect amount time spend on them. What makes this movie really special is the realness of it which is strange to write. Of course, you need to relate to these characters but man does Gertwig do a great job of capturing high school life. It doesn’t matter if it’s set in 2002, there’s a lot of relatability to this.
This is the perfect indie to end the year on. It’s a great nostalgia trip to not only 2002 but high school life. Every single aspect from the directing to the marvelous acting works to convey this realness. If you get the chance, absolutely see it.
Grade: A

Star Wars Episode 8 VIII: The Last Jedi Review

The Last Jedi

Ever since Disney and Lucasfilm came out with “The Force Awakens”, Star Wars has been back with a vengeance. Box office records are being broken and both critics and audiences are loving it. With the newest film, “The Last Jedi”, there has been a divide with the audiences. Some are loving it while others find it to be a mixed bag with a lot of plotholes.

As with the other recent Star Wars movies, I won’t be giving away that many details away. 

Give props to Rian Johnson for not only taking risks but also paying them off. There are some tropes in a Star Wars movie that either gets subverted or just throw out. It’s actually a welcome changed of pace to see. Also he manage to get some beautifully stunning shots in there. He will be helming a new trilogy 

All of the characters returning is wonderful to see. The new cast (Finn, Rey, and Poe) are a great presence to establish this new trilogy. Some of the new characters are a mixed bag. They don’t add a lot with their presence and seem like they’re there only for the story.

The most welcomed return is by far Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Definitely has a lot more to do than turning around and removing his hood. Without getting too much into his character, he’s different from the last time we saw him in “Return of the Jedi.” He’s more grumpier but you’ll understand why and it actually doesn’t feel that out of character. Also seeing Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia for the last time was bittersweet. She was amazing but watching her talented performance broke my heart. Losing such a talent is tough but we’ll always have our princess.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the movie feels too long. Mainly during the second act that could leave you a bit bored. Mainly it has to do with Finn’s subplot which is boring and drags on. If it was cut out or maybe make it more interesting then it could have been better. Then at times, it seems like the movie is about to end but it doesn’t happen. It’s fine if it happens once but that feeling was three times. You shouldn’t want the movie to end but god I was hoping for it.

Despite that, “The Last Jedi” is still a good time at the movies. If you’re a Star Wars fan or like “The Force Awakens” then you’ll still find enjoyment out of it. The returning characters bring a familiar comfort along with great action and fun.

Grade: B

Coco Review

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Pixar is one of if not the best animation studio in the business currently. Most of their catalog has the basic essentials to have that Pixar quality. It needs to have breathtaking visuals, a lot of heart, great characters, and make you feel all sorts of emotions. The newest Pixar movie, “Coco” not only hits this checklist but it excels them.g
“Coco” centers around Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) and his family as they prepare for Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is where dead relatives visit the living world for one night as they’re remembered. Now Miguel’s family hates music thanks to their great-great grandfather and bans him for pursuing his passion. After a fight, he mysteriously enters the land of the dead. With the help of his new friend Hector (Gael García Bernal) they must get him back or else he will be stuck there forever.
The visuals are not only appealing but they honestly take your breath away. Mexico feels so real and it’s blooming with a great culture. Then when Miguel gets to the land of the dead, it becomes jaw-dropping. It’s saying something that I wanted to pause the movie to take in each frame of this movie. It glows warm lights but it contrasts so well with (stats). Before the movie, they showed a tiny featurette of how much work went into the location and it was well worth it.
Not only is there warmth from the visuals but also from the family. La Familia is the main theme of “Coco” and how important it is. Getting it from not only the living but dead relatives really do enforce it. This feels like a real family and many of the members seem like your own. Especially the grandma who’s fierce, demanding but also does care for her family.
Besides family, another big theme is passion for your dreams. Now the point is made that your family should come before your dreams. This doesn’t mean there should be no drive for what you want to do. For Miguel, it’s music which his family disapproves. Just hearing the music in this movie is fantastic. I immediately downloaded the album on Spotify. So don’t be surprised if “Remember Me” wins Best Orginal Song at the Oscars
If you haven’t already seen “Coco” then it’s a must see. Not only is it a great Pixar film but it’s a great movie in general. There’s just this warmth about it that engulfs and makes you feel at home, just like family. If you can’t see The Last Jedi this weekend then this is a high priority.
Grade: A

“Justice League” Brings a Very Fun but Flaw Experience

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It seems that fans were waiting for an entirely to see the original superhero team up. Even when the movie was in production, the reception of earlier DCEU movies and the family tragedy of the director, Zack Snyder had to face which resulted in reshoots done by Joss Whedon put doubt in people’s mind. Now that “Justice League” is finally here, we can finally get to see the team but with some flaws along the way.

After Superman (Henry Cavill) sacrifice at the hands of Doomsday, Batman (Ben Affleck) becomes inspired by his example. Sensing a world-ending attack coming, he teams up with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to find metahumans. With Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) on their side, they must unite to save the world.

The biggest positive is by far the characters. It’s a shame that Ben Affleck might leave because he still remains the best live action Batman to date. He nails all angles of this character and even gets some funny lines in here. Just from a visual standpoint, the way he broods or is on a ledge, it’s like Zack Snyder ripped him from the comics.

Coming off the success of “Wonder Woman”, Gal Gadot is still on top. She has become the embodiment of her character. She interacts with the other league members with such compassion especially to Cyborg is heartwarming but when she fights, there’s nothing stopping her.

All of the new superheroes make a great impression that makes me want to view their respective solo movies. It’s interesting to see how all three members don’t seem like they fit into this world. They’re all held back by their trauma and actually makes them feel more human. It’s a nice tease to see them all which makes their future standalone movies even more exciting for the future.

Combined this with the score done by Danny Elfman and it becomes a DC fan treat. Now while I’m disappointed that Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL aren’t back, Elfman fills in some big shoes. He combines the old themes of Batman and Superman that doesn’t feel distracted then makes his own music that feels cinematic. Even the Zimmer and Junkie XL Wonder Woman theme gets a little remix.

Yet the story feels pretty choppy and rushed at times. It feels like a by the numbers situation with your bland villain trying to take over the world. It was revealed lately the Warner Bros wanted a tight two-hour movie but an extra scene or two to let the movie breathe would have really helped.

Visually the movie looks amazing, the CGI at times is horrible. This is when you can see the reshoots in action. Usually, it feels like the actors are behind a green screen and it’s very noticeable that you might be taken out of the movie. This movie should have been pushed back to clear up these shoots and not be rushed Also, let’s just say the mustache removing technology is really not good.

If you’re looking to have some fun then see “Justice League”. The characters are wonderful to see and have some great chemistry. Yes, the negatives are easily noticeable for a bit but the experience should over wash them. While it’s not the grand standard, this movie is very serviceable and has a lot of fun thanks to these characters.

Grade: B

“Thor: Ragnarok” Makes for Another Entertaining Marvel Film

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“Thor: Ragnarok” marks the third film in the Thor franchise and the 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the first two Thor movies have been a little on the bland side, ”Thor: Ragnork” gives it a well deserve spice. Not only is this movie a beautiful action flick but a hilarious one as well that’s sure to entertain.
We see Thor (Chris Hemsworth) return to his home Asgard to find his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has ruled in Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) absence. When both of them try to find Odin, they instead find Hela (Cate Blanchett) a powerful figure that wants to destroy Asgard. After she breaks his hammer, he gets stranded on a junkyard planet, Sakaar where he finds the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Now he must get back to Asgard to stop Hela from annihilating his world.
The positive elements of Thor make a strong impression as the returning characters shine once again. Thor and Loki still command the screen with such charisma and humor. Along with familiar faces, we get some great new characters. Although not new to the MCU, Hulk brings some great energy to this movie. He’s amazing during fight sequences but what surprisingly is how much he gets to talk. To expand Mark Ruffalo acting chops in this movie, the filmmakers gave him a lot more dialogue when he’s the Hulk. This works out because he’s hilarious as there is more of a childlike simplicity to him that’s funny but a little heartwarming as well. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie is definitely a standout as she has so much charm to her. Burden by her past, now she drinks and fights during her time. Hopefully, Valkyrie will come back in future MCU movies.
Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster is really good because he’s Jeff Goldblum. He can do any role and still bring his unique glamour that dazzles the viewer. It doesn’t hurt that they give him really good lines. Hela is a great villain that is not only interesting but with very threating. It’s the perfect balance that helps make her shine as one of the best villains in the MCU.
What helps makes this movie the strongest in the trilogy is they finally got rid of the weak elements in the previous two. That being the characters on Earth which took up a good chunk of time are finally gone. There’s no forced romance with Natalie Portman or awkward comic relief with Kat Dennings. We only spend around five minutes on Earth when the brothers try to find Odin and it’s very entertaining. The rest of the movie is either on Asgard or on the junkyard planet.
Besides the new characters that came, the director Taika Waititi brings a great new charge to this franchise. He’s known for more comedic movies like “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” this is no exception. He fits naturally to the quippy and wisecracking atmosphere that Marvel set up. This movie is so funny at sometimes, you’ll crack up so hard that you need a breather. He helps strengthen the chemistry between all the characters in a way that you’ll care for everyone on-screen.
In a visual sense, “Thor: Ragnarok” is such a beautiful movie. (director) makes great use of the color wheel with bright neon colors. The splash of color and visuals becomes so good that you don’t even need sound, just the sight alone will entertain. It’s like a combination of old greek paintings, classic rock album cover art and neon.
The only criticize that comes to mind is bad CGI and green screen. It doesn’t happen too often but it occurs during some important scenes. During a critical scene early in the film, there’s some bad green screen that’s distracting. Either you’ll be invested in the drama or wonder why would they put something so off-putting in a scene.
Even with that flaw, “Thor: Ragnarok” is overall a great addition to the MCU. All of the positive parts from the previous two films are amped up and the new additions add to this magnificent movie. Check out this movie immediately.

Grade: B+

 

Survivor 35: Heroes v Healers v Hustlers Episode 5 Recap

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Previously on Survivor: Cole decided to spill the beans about Jessica’s idol to everyone in the tribe. Ryan built a bond with Chrissy because of him giving her the super idol in the first episode. Levu lost the challenge which left Devon as the swing vote but in a surprise twist, he couldn’t vote thanks to a (dis)advantage. Before the votes were read, Joe played his idol and Alan was voted out.

Levu: Everyone is shocked about the blindside even Ashley who wasn’t the biggest fan of Alan. This leaves her not trusting Joe even more but currently, it’s two v two. Joe is ecstatic about the idol play he did and can’t wait to start more trouble.

Yawa: While building a fire, a bamboo stick popped up in the fire pit creating a starling sound. Ben freaks out and retreats to the ocean to relax. Now Ben is a soldier so that sound triggers some memories of his service. He explains that PTSD is a common thing with soldiers and thanks to his family, it helped him conquer his demons. Not only is he playing for himself but veterans to give them hope.

Reward Challenge: For the challenge, each person will have their legs and arms bound together making them more like a snake or snug. They must navigate balls to the end where they must make put all of the balls via basketball. The first tribe to win will get iced coffee and assorted pastries while second place will get just iced coffee.

The challenge starts and Desi immediately rips through the course. Everyone on Levu follows suit and gets all of the balls to the end. The other two tribes are neck and neck. Mike slows down but gets to the end while Ryan loses the ball down the hill. This buys Yawa a lot of time while Levu goes on to win. Ryan is continually failing with the ball as it keeps going down the hill. It doesn’t matter as Yawa wins the second part of the reward.

Levu: Everyone is so happy that they won the big reward (honestly it looks good). They all celebrate with a cafe buffet. After last tribal council, this reward really helps them out. Devon thinks about getting rid of Joe as he talks to Ashley about sticking together. Both of them agree that if they go to tribal council, they’re willing to go to rocks.

Soko: Ryan apologies for losing the challenge but he tries to go for his best asset, the social respective. He explains that as long as he makes people laugh and have a good time then it will help in the future. Roark feels she’s on the outs so she makes a bond with Ali. This works perfectly for Ali because she’ll need more numbers when the merge comes. She tells Ryan about what Roark said but he has other plans. He has formed a tight bond with Chrissy but Ali doesn’t want to work with her.

Yawa: Cole is still not having a good social game as his eating habits are getting on Lauren’s nerves. Jessica is still not trusting him so she turns to Mike as her new closest ally. They decide to look for the idol which Mike does get. This fulfills the prophecy in the first episode as Mike was telling us how he needs to find an idol. While Mike will build trust Jessica with this, the idol is all his.

Immunity: Immunity is back up for grab as the tribes must swim out to a boat to get three bags. They must navigate through the course to get their bags to the end. Once they’re at the end, the bags will be ripped up in order to get three balls. Those balls must go in their holes in order to win immunity.

Levu is struggling in the beginning as everyone is navigating the course while they’re still squeezing the bag through. Desi buys more time as she gets her bag fast. Soko is now in last place as the other two tribes start on getting their balls in the holes. Ashley works on the puzzle and gets the ball in. Soko gets started on the puzzle with Ali getting the first ball in. Chrissy jumps in but isn’t good at it. She refuses to give up her spot but it’s too late as the other two tribes win.

Tribal: Chrissy isn’t feeling good about going to tribal so she goes to Roark. She acknowledges that Roark is a dangerous player in her tribal and proposes an all girl alliance. Now according to Roark, this is the first time that Chrissy is talking strategy with her. Chrissy spins this as Roark was making an all-girl alliance and tells JP and Ryan about this. Ryan becomes the swing vote and ponders on voting out Chrissy or Roark?

At tribal, Chrissy and Ali immediately go at it because of the immunity challenge. People start blaming Chrissy for losing the challenge and Roark tells her that now she starts talking to me. Chrissy brings up that Roark also didn’t approach her as well but everyone else in the tribe has. The voting begins as it becomes a 2 v 2 for Roark and Chrissy. With the final vote, Roark is voted out of the tribe.