February 28

Black Panther | A Celebration of (Black) Excellence

You want to talk about a grand slam. This felt like the grand slam in the bottom of the 9th inning 2 outs and down by three.  This won the game and created a legacy of its own. Funny thing is, this film has been in the theaters for a matter of days and we are seeing numbers we would see a Star Wars film appear for a movie about an African King. Fucking Incredible.  I honestly have no clue where to start talking about this film.  Marvel films have been a juggernaut for a decade now delivering on films of different heroes and comic arcs. For me, Captain America Winter Solider was the greatest Marvel film to date. Cap 2 was able to blend the genre of a generic Comic Book film to a political thriller. The film even took risk and it payed off big time, delivering Marvel’s best film and one of the greatest comic book films ever. Since then, Marvel has been a mix bag for me.  Examining their current phase, Phase 3 has been ok for me.  From films that are good but not great (Spiderman-Homecoming, Doctor Strange), that are good but flawed (Civil War, Thor 3) to great in theory but meh in execution (Guardians of the Galaxy 2). Phase 3 has not impressed until Black Panther arrived. Black Panther actually move past Winter Solider for me in terms of best Marvel films, that is how great this film is. Seeing it in theaters four times (going on five now) is something I rarely do for any film.  There is nothing wrong with this film from the incredible cast and crew behind it, the soundtrack, and score were phenomenal and the topics this film covered made me forget this was a Disney film. Ryan Coogler delivered big time with this film.

Black Panther follows the events of Civil War where Prince T’Challa comes following the death of his father/king T’Chaka to anointed King of the fictional nation in Africa, Wakanda.  T’Challa prepares to take handle a burden of responsibilities and have a major dilemma that will alter the fate of Wakanda for the near future.  Right off the bat, I have to talk about the cast in this film. Chadwick Boseman was perfect for T’Challa/Black Panther. T’Challa has always been a hard character to write in comics because he is virtually perfect. Boseman channels the king well as a man who wants to honor tradition and as someone who distraught by the consequences from the actions of his father and past kings/queens of Wakanda. T’Chaka told T’Challa have a great supporting casts behind him and man did he.  Angela Basset plays the Queen Ramonda the mother of T’Challa and his sister Shruri (played incredibly well by Letitia Wright). Basset does great as she usually do but it is her daughter Shruri is the member of the Royal family that is the scene-stealer here. Shruri is incredible in the film she brings the comedy (which is not overbearing) and the brains of the film. She is going to be a massive inspiration to kids abroad. At the age of 16, Shruri brings Tony Stark to shame in terms of innovative and downright brilliance. The women in this film in general dominate. Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia (who actually becomes a villain in the comics) as the (sort of?) love interests but with a twists. She is the one turning T’Challa down in the film and brining question to the tradition of Wakanda.  Instead of being damsel in distress, she is the one saving folks from harm and taking charge when needed (TAKE NOTES ON HOW TO WRITE WOMEN IN MOVIES).  Speaking of taking charge, I left her for last because she deserves all the praise here. Danai Gurira good God she was amazing here.  Gurira plays Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje (an all-female special force unit whose task is protecting their king) and almost every scene she is in she owns it. Danai must have saw Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman said thank you and went to work here.  Okoye was a blast to watch in this film she was fearless, noble, and knew when to talk.  Her dynamic with Nakia in the film plays a major role in this film as well as the overall tone of the film.  The women in this film deserve all the praise coming their way they brought it big time.

As for the villain in this film, FINALLY Marvel got it right and man did they get it right (this honestly deserve a deeper analysis than what I am about to do and will probably write it eventually). Michael B Jordan’s Erick Killmonger (In this film his last name is Stevens) is one of the best villains I have seen in a long time. This is not due to the underperforming villains of recent years either. He is has a reason to be the way he is, each line he drops could be a quotable for a social media post or t-shirt idea.  He symbolizes anger but in a place that has yet to be resolved in films period and the fact Disney let Coogler go there…..Bravo.  Killmonger is a product of his past but it is not crutch to him at all in fact the accomplishments he have under his name is damning and most will look past this but it needs to be brought up his past was more than what transpired in one scene it is his whole backstory that is fascinating. Killmonger is breath of fresh air for villains. There are so many arguments he makes are hard to refute, even T’Challa himself have a hard time disagreeing with him. He makes T’Challa challenge tradition and himself on what it will take for Wakanda to grow and evolve.  His stance on colorism is one of the most heart endearing aspect of the film. Each scene with him, you want to learn more about him, but you can see his side of the coin.  Great Villains always make the heroes they face better and in this film, T’Challa grows to become a better king, but it also bring up a real life issue to be addressed in a manner we have yet seen.  Again Bravo Marvel!

This film is a damn masterpiece the fact my only issue with this film was the fact I wished this film was 15 minutes longer for selfish reasons. Coogler and his crew knocked this film out of the park.  Ruth Carter costume designs are some of the best costumes created in a film. Hell, I want to buy some of T’Challa’s gear if it was possible. Wakanda is beautiful and thank god it tears away from the Africa is a “shithole” (this is still a cringe worthy quote by the President 45) Continent. Despite Wakanda being fictional, it does display a world where anyone would love to visit. To the members of the VFX team for brining Wakanda to life, I salute you.  Thank you for brining color to Marvel; seriously, the color scale in Marvel films can be a little dull in some films.  Ludwig Göransson composed the score for this film and what an incredible this was. Ludwig actually traveled to Senegal to and used their local musicians to record the soundtrack.  My favorite composed movie soundtrack since Man of Steel.  Even Kendrick Lamar had a Superfly moment and curated a movie soundtrack for this film as well. Both delivered great soundtrack that are worth listening to right now.  Which lead us back to Ryan Coogler, who is now 3 for 3 for great films. Coogler proved he belongs in discussion for great young directors. The fact he is only 31 is incredible and I am 100% interested in his next project.  Coogler brought energy to this film and gave this film a message that was refreshing for a Marvel. Marvel allow Coogler to make this film a FUBU (for us, by us) film, they let him create a message that Black people will relate to alongside its hero.

The issues in these films is that the ideologies of both the hero and the villain tends to lean one side over the other. However, this film made the line blurred. Killmonger and T’Challa battle of the minds using their fists is not anything new but they reason of these minds facing off has never been this fascinating.  Killmonger being somewhat of revolutionary ready to take what was stolen from us compared to T’Challa whose lifelong obligation is to the people of Wakanda and establishing the order there.  The way this conflict ends is one of the more beautiful, tear jerking moments in the films.

I must admit I cried at the ending more than once.  Reading about Black Panther around the age of 13, I never thought this day would come. I remember the failed Wesley Snipes attempt at bringing the character to life only for filmmakers to sway the material a different way and I mean DIFFERENT. The ending of this film bring us back to full circle of the film and present the world a new hero to inspire to be. Finally, I have to witness one of Marvel’s most underappreciated characters in mainstream media to make a debut worth applauding. This is not just another Marvel movie; this was an event unlike anything before. This was a celebration of blackness and a celebration of Comic book cinema.  Where the previous films I reviewed laid the groundwork (good or bad) for a film like Black Panther to grow.  The box office has responded to this film in a way no one imagined as it is on pace become a Billion dollar film which along with the records it has already broke will be a feat unheard of a decade ago.

I have no idea what this will means for the film industry, no one knows what will happen really. Hollywood can look at this as a blimp on the radar and there will be another #oscarsowhite moment or even worse, a Gods of Egypt catastrophe.  This film could finally open the eyes of Hollywood and show them that diversity in films is huge and people will respond to films that care about the culture it attempting to represent.  Mad Max Fury Road and Wonder Woman’s success led to a rise in female led action films to varying results (wished it did the same for female directors leading them). Where Black Panther success will lie is the future it help molds. (Please everyone go see Wrinkle in Time and support Ava for the same reason as Black Panther).  Black Panther may or may not be the reason of change, but this film provided a historic moment that no one thought would happen. This a celebration for us to remember and rejoice in the moment.  A love letter to comic book fan and a reason to feel kids of color to be proud of representation done right.

Marvel, Black Panther, Kilmonger, Wakanda forever,Marvel, Black Panther, Kilmonger, Wakanda forever,Marvel, Black Panther, Kilmonger, Wakanda forever,Marvel, Black Panther, Kilmonger, Wakanda forever

 

Bow to the King and WAKANDA FORVER.

 

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February 21

Blade 2, How to do a Sequel 101

Del Toro and Wesley Snipes what can go wrong? ok in production, Blade 2 looked like an uncertainty to happen. Four years after the first Blade with a director change and we have a sequel. In addition, this is the first sequel of a Marvel Property, another accomplishment for Wesley.  Bringing Del Toro in was a shot of life for the franchise as the visuals and overall tone of the film changed. The cast in this film was stellar with standout performances from Ron Pearlman, the returning Kris Kristofferson, Donnie Yen, Leonor Varela, and Luke Goss.  Luke in particular plays the main villain of this film, Jared Nomak. Nomak is a carrier of the reaper virus (a virus that turns vampires into zombies). Nomak was the 1st patient of the viruses due to the work of his father, Nomak’s path is due to the hate he has towards his family and virtually losing everything. He is easily the best villain I have covered so far and one of my comic book movie villains of all time.

Blade also has a fascinating story here too. Blade has to team with Vampires (a group known as the Bloodpack), led by Ron Pearlman’s Dieter Reinhardt in order to stop the reaper virus from killing off planet earth.  The Bloodpack is worried about what the reaper virus would do their kind. Blade is worried about the fate of humanity and the bigger picture of what this virus would to in general, thus, forming an unlikely alliance.

Right off the bat, I love this film. This film provides a very formula like sequel structure that the X-Men followed in their next installment but A LOT better than Blade same as Spiderman to a degree.  Blade added more to this world by incorporating the Reaper virus. The vampires also show range in the film. None of them trusts Blade and Blade does not trust them either, but they know what needs to done.  However, where the film falters is this relationship.

Where we should, had saw progression in how each side felt about the other, it resorted to the typical backstabbing/redemption arc in Act 3.  Which did lead to a kick-ass fight scene by Snipes. The fact Snipes and Yen did not fight in this a movie is a crime in itself. Back to the narrative of who and who not to trust, the films does a good job of showing of the Bloodpack members and their personalities. Not each of them were able to get in-depth with their characters, which is fine most of them were cannon fodder.  The side story between Whistler and Norman Reedus’s (Hi Darryl) Scud was not fascinating but it served its purpose here narrative wise.

Honestly, with a better writer this film would be a grand slam. David S Goyer really is the problem again. Del Toro did put a lot of work in this film and it shows.  This film did have allot going for it. The cast brought their A game, amazing villain, and Snipes being Snipes. Throw in some great action pieces and one-liners and you have Blade 2.  A blueprint on how to make sequels fun.  Side note: The soundtrack for this film is fun to listen too as well.

February 12

Steel | Who greenlit this shit?

Congrats DC, you did it before Marvel but you played yourself.

This was rough like really rough, it took 6 tries to watch this and shockingly, this is not the worst on this list. Before Hollywood knew better Shaq kept getting starring movie roles.  Granted, Blue Chips is one of the best Basketball films to date and personally take a look (granted a melodramatic look) inside the NCAA. After taking his talents to Hollywood and leaving Orlando, Shaq was destined to follow up on role in Blue Chips with starring roles. First came Kazaam and thank god that doesn’t count; I would’ve threw my laptop.  Kazaam was a flop, but Hollywood did not listen and gave Shaq a DC comic property to work with in Steel.

Steel was never a huge character. In fact, he was a side character to Superman and eventually tried and failed to carry his mantle after Supes defeat to Doomsday. The character John Henry Irons (yes, his name is a pun) was the 1st black comic character to get a Hollywood blockbuster film not Black Lightning, not John Stewart’s Green Lantern, or even Static Shock ugghhhh damn you DC for this!!!!

The film changed certain aspects of his character instead of being a weapons engineer for the fictional AmerTek Industries like he was in the comics, he was a weapons engineer for the military in the film. Also, there is no Superman in this film and thank fucking god for that.  Shaq who plays Irons is discharged from the military due to how dangerous his weapons are and paralyzing one of his comrades in a practice run.  By the way, Shaq in a Military uniform is as ridiculous as it sounds.  Long story short, Shaq sees his weapons on the street and he goes under the guise of Steel to take the bad guys and get the weapons off the street. This film doesn’t deserve a breakdown, fuck that don’t see it. Don’t ask me to elaborate. Judd Nelson plays the villain and he’s just being himself here.  THIS FILM RUINED SHAFT FOR ME. Dammit Mr. Roundtree how could you?  Ray J was in this film as Shaq’s brother, son, nephew I don’t fucking know nor care, but I enjoyed him in this film. This film is bad on all levels and I’m ashamed it took me 6 tries to finish it. Don’t watch it, save yourself.