‘Black Panther’ Review

Director: Ryan Coogler

Writers: Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker

Synopsis: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one fans have been waiting for, and one that fans have been making a good uproar about. For the first time, there is a superhero movie – at least in the modern age of superhero movies – with a predominate black cast, and one that’s actually good and doesn’t rely on stereotypes. While the race element is something someone can talk about more clearly than I can, Black Panther is without a doubt something special and different than we have gotten before.

Black Panther starts off with a brief history of how the fictional country of Wakanda and the Black Panther came to be, and from there we jump to a brief scene in 1992 with a young King T’Chaka. However, we then jump to the present day and see T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), as he takes the throne in his home country with the people closest to him by his side. His mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his youngest sister and head of the science/weapons division Shuri (Letitia Wright), the Dora Milaje general and friend Okoye (Danai Gurira) and his former lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).

However, T’Challa reign doesn’t go too smoothly as Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) comes back into the picture, along with some help from the mysterious Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). T’Challa must now decide what kind of king he wants to be, and stop threats from all around him.

Like I mentioned, Black Panther is something special and different. The movie doesn’t strive away from touching on the racial issue unlike other Marvel films. They usually touch on them and move on to the bombastic action scenes, which is fine for me, but Black Panther doesn’t shy away from at all. In fact, it doesn’t even try to hide them and hits them all on the head without sounding preachy or forcing it upon us. Everything touched on makes sense, and when you take a step back, you start to realize what the message is coming from a superhero film of all places.

There there’s Wakanda itself. The technologically advanced country is a sight to see, with technology that doesn’t yet exist, but also with African tribal touches everywhere you go. Speaking of that, there is a lot of African tribal touches throughout the movie that just make Black Panther more authentic to its roots and gives it the extra touch above other films, especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When it comes to everything else about the movie, well, it’s still pretty damn good. The cast are all fantastic from top to bottom. Of course, we already saw Boseman as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, but his character here really gives us a better sense at what to expect of him in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other hand, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is arguably one of Marvel’s best villains to date. He reasoning is sound and most importantly, he’s well-written to the point that I wish there was more of him in the movie.

The other men fair well with Martin Freeman returning as Everett Ross in a bigger role than I thought he’d have. Get Out breakout Daniel Kaluuya has a small, but hopefully bigger part in the future, role as W’Kabi, T’Challa’s friend that takes an interesting turn. Andy Serkis’ Klaue returns in a hammed up approach that surprisingly works and is a ton of fun to watch. Finally, Winston Duke, who plays rival M’Baku is definitely one of the breakout stars here acting in a way that you wouldn’t believe he would at times.

But let’s talk about the women. The women in Black Panther are freaking badass! Danai Gurira as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje, is a force to be reckoned with anytime there’s a fight. Letitia Wright’s Shuri brings a spark of energy and fun every time she’s onscreen, and Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia acts like a bit of a moral compass for T’Challa, but also brings up the concept of what would you do for your country versus what should be done. Finally, Angela Bassett just commands the scenes every time she’s on because, well, she’s Angela Bassett.

Now, the movie does have a few faults. It does fall into the Marvel final battle cliché of being a bit too CGI-heavy with the final fight between T’Challa and Killmonger. Also, while we get to see Wakanda and its interesting history, along with its traditions, I would have liked to see a little more of the actual city.

All in all, Black Panther is an important movie no matter which way you look at it. Not only is it a superhero movie with an all black cast, but one of Marvel’s best films to date. With well written characters, a story that isn’t all over the place, and a deep and personal message and theme, Black Panther is a movie you should go watch as soon as possible.

 

Black Panther

4.5 out of 5

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Favorite Directors, Actors, Actress, Supporting Roles & Villains

The end of the year doesn’t just mean putting out your best/favorite movies of year. It can be a time to reflect the individuals like directors, actors, actress, supporting roles, villains and everything in between. So, that said, I’m here to do just that. We all have our favorites, and these are mine. This is of course my opinion. I tried to shorten the list as much as I could, but like every year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.

 

Also, villains are probably considered Supporting Actors/Actress in other lists, but again, to not only make the lists shorter, I want the villains to have their own category, because everyone loves a good villain, right?

 

Finally, everything and everyone will be in alphabetical order. This is also part one of two different lists. Enjoy.

 

 

Directors

Chris McKay – The LEGO Batman Movie

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk

Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049

Edgar Wright – Baby Driver

Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

J.A. Bayona – A Monster Calls

James Mangold – Logan

Jordan Peele – Get Out

Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman

Matt Reeves – War for the Planet of the Apes

Taika Waititi – Thor: Ragnarok

 

Honorable Mentions

Andy Muschietti – It

David F. Sandberg – Annabelle: Creation

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

James Franco – The Disaster Artist

Kathryn Bigelow – Detroit

M. Night Shyamalan – Split

Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Steven Soderbergh – Logan Lucky

 

 

Just Missed the List

Ben Wheatley – Free Fire

Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya

Darren Aronofsky – Mother!

James Gunn – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina – Coco

Nacho Vigalondo – Colossal

Michael Showalter – The Big Sick

Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World

 

 

Actors

Andy Serkis as Caesar – War for the Planet of the Apes

Chris Hemsworth as Thor – Thor: Ragnarok

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor – Wonder Woman

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington – Get Out

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill – Darkest Hour

Hugh Jackman as Logan – Logan

Lewis MacDougall as Conor – A Monster Calls

Michael Fassbender as David and Walter – Alien: Covenant

Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc – The Founder

Sam Rockwell as Dixon – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man – Spider-Man: Homecoming

 

Honorable Mentions

James Franco as Tommy – The Disaster Artist

Richard Jenkins as Giles – The Shape of Water

RJ Cyler as Billy/Blue Ranger – Power Rangers

Ryan Gosling as K – Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Reynolds as Michael & Samuel L. Jackson as Darius – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly – I, Tonya

Sharlto Copley as Vernon – Free Fire

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs – Battle of the Sexes

Will Arnett as Batman/Bruce Wayne – The LEGO Batman Movie

Will Poulter as Krauss – Detroit

 

Just Missed the List

Ansel Elgort as Baby – Baby Driver

Armie Hammer as Ord – Free Fire

Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall & Josh Gad as Sam Friedman – Marshall

Chris Evans as Frank Adler – Gifted

Dave Franco as Greg – The Disaster Artist

Jackie Chan as Quan Ngoc Minh – The Foreigner

James McAvoy as David Percival – Atomic Blonde

Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert – Wind River

Jason Sudeikis as Oscar – Colossal

Javier Bardem as Him – Mother!

Joel Edgerton as Paul – It Comes At Night

Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail – The Big Sick

Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson – Dunkirk

 

 

Actress

Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke – Split

Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn – Ingrid Goes West

Dafne Keen as Laura – Logan

Frances McDormand as Mildred – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Gal Gadot as Diana – Wonder Woman

Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom – Molly’s Game

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding – I, Tonya

Mckenna Grace as Mary Adler – Gifted

Noomi Rapace as The Settman Siblings – What Happened to Monday

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito – The Shape of Water

Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson – Lady Bird

 

Honorable Mentions

Anne Hathaway as Gloria – Colossal

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King – Battle of the Sexes

Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Sophia Lillis as Beverly – It

Talitha Bateman as Janice & Lulu Wilson as Linda – Annabelle: Creation

 

Just Missed the List

Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton – Atomic Blonde

Jennifer Lawrence as Mother – Mother!

Michelle Williams as Gail Harris – All the Money in the World

Seo-hyun Ahn as Mija – Okja

Zoe Kazan as Emily – The Big Sick

Zoe Lister-Jones as Anna – Band Aid

 

 

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty – All the Money in the World

Daniel Craig as Joe Bang – Logan Lucky

Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs & Jason Statham as Deckard – The Fate of the Furious

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard – Blade Runner 2049

Jacob Batalon as Ned – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Liam Neeson as The Monster (voice) – A Monster Calls

Michael Rooker as Yondu – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Patrick Stewart as Charles – Logan

Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard – Kong: Skull Island

 

Honorable Mentions

Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier – Dunkirk

Doug Jones as Amphibian Man – The Shape of Water

Demian Bichir as Miguel Alvarez – Lowriders

Domhnall Gleeson as Monty ‘Schafer’ – American Made

LilRel Howery as Rod Williams – Get Out

Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald & John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald – The Founder

Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt – I, Tonya

Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth – The LEGO Batman Movie

Shea Whigham as Cole & John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow – Kong: Skull Island

Taika Waititi as Korg & Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk & Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster – Thor: Ragnarok

 

Just Missed the List

Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage – Get Out

Christopher Meloni as Roger, Ike Barinholtz as Jeffrey & Bashir Saladuddin as Morgan Russell – Snatched

Jack Reynor as Harry – Free Fire

Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Finn Wolfhard as Richie & Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie – It

Jon Bernthal as Griff – Baby Driver

Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Dick – The LEGO Batman Movie

Pedro Pascal as Whiskey – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Ray Romano as Terry – The Big Sick

Steve Zahn as Bad Apes – War for the Planet of the Apes

Stephen Merchant as Caliban – Logan

 

 

Supporting Actress

Allison Janney as LaVona Golden – I, Tonya

Ana de Armas as Joi – Blade Runner 2049

Felicity Jones as Mum – A Monster Calls

Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson – Lady Bird

Pom Klementieff as Mantis – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Robin Wright as Antiope – Wonder Woman

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie – Thor: Ragnarok

Tiffany Haddish as Dina – Girls Trip

 

Honorable Mentions

Amiah Miller as Nova – War for the Planet of the Apes

Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Holly Hunter as Beth – The Big Sick

Lucy Davis as Etta – Wonder Woman

Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman – Mother!

Riley Keough as Kim – It Comes At Night

 

Just Missed the List

Elle Fanning as Loretta Figgis – Live by Night

Glenn Close as Dr. Caroline Caldwell – The Girl with All the Gifts

Karen Gillan as Nebula – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Linda Cardellini as Joan Smith – The Founder

Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Sigourney Weaver as Grandma – A Monster Calls

 

 

Villain

Allison Williams as Rose Armitage – Get Out

Annabelle – Annabelle: Creation

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise – It

Cate Blanchett as Hela – Thor: Ragnarok

James McAvoy as Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig/Kevin/Barry/Jade/Orwell/The Beast – Split

Jamie Foxx as Bats & Jon Hamm as Buddy – Baby Driver

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture – Spider-Man: Homecoming

 

Honorable Mentions

Calvin – Life

Common as Cassian – John Wick: Chapter 2

Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland – The Shape of Water

Skull Crawlers – Kong: Skull Island

Sylvia Hoeks as Luv – Blade Runner 2049

Zach Galifinakis as The Joker – The LEGO Batman Movie

 

Just Missed the List

Charlize Theron as Cipher – The Fate of the Furious

Kurt Russell as Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Tony Goldwyn as Barry Norris – The Belko Experiment

Woody Harrelson as The Colonel – War for the Planet of the Apes

 

 

‘Sicario’ Review

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Hank Rogerson, Bernardo P. Saracino, Maximillano Hernandez, and Edgar Arreola.

Synopsis: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The War on Drugs is something that has been done on film before and some have been done with great success, but director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan have done something special with Sicario. The film gives an unapologetic, rare and bleak look on the subject and one of the most intense and effective thrillers I’ve seen in a while.

 

Sicario opens with FBI agent Kate Macer, the leader of a kidnap and response team in Arizona, who with her team that includes her partner Reggie Wayne (Kaluuya) raid a house that has dead bodies inside the walls. The raid and discovery puts her on the radar of government agent Matt Graver (Brolin), who decides to bring her in to his operation of taking down a head of one of the Mexican cartels. When she bought she also meets Alejandro (Del Toro) who, according to Matt, is a “liaison” but never tells her from or what to. As the operation goes on, Kate soon realizes that everything around her may not be as clear cut as it seems. More importantly, can she trust the people around her?

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Kate acts as our surrogate into the drug war and specific situation they are trying to pull off in the film. Thankfully, Emily Blunt gives another reliable performance and makes us believe her as she is thrown into a world she doesn’t completely understand and well trying to get answers, she is pushed to the side and kept in the dark. Blunt truly is one of the best actresses in Hollywood today and being the lead in the film like this is refreshing to see. They could have easily put a man in the lead role – and they almost did, but Villeneuve and Sheridan protested – but it probably wouldn’t have worked.

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However, despite Blunt’s great performance, Sicario belongs to Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro. It takes a while to finally figure his character out, but Del Toro gives us enough to be interested in him until that point. Hell, his character doesn’t say too much at the beginning of the film and even other people see him they stiffen up a little bit. Del Toro has always been on people’s radar, but it feels like recently he is getting a lot more attention, and he deserves it. Alejandro is definitely one of Benicio Del Toro’s best characters and maybe one of the best characters of the year.

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The rest of the cast fare well in the roles they are given, although the film really does belong to the main actors. Josh Brolin looks to be having fun chewing up scenery as his cocky, brash and laid-back government agent that is always keeping Kate in the dark right up until the end. Daniel Kaluuya’s Reggie is loyal to Kate through-and-through and has a nice scene that breaks all the tension from the rest of the film that shows you how close the two characters are. Victor Garber pops in as Kate and Reggie’s boss, Jeffery Donovan also pops in as another government agent that Matt works with and is equally mysterious and cocky. Finally Maximiliano Hernandez, who fans will know as Agent Sitwell from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plays a Mexican police officer, Silvio serves a great purpose to the overall theme of the film than you would think.

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Speaking of the theme, Sicario has a lot going on and thankfully it doesn’t get lost too much in them. I don’t really want to give any of them away, but as you can assume with the film being about going after one of the bosses in one of the cartels in Mexico, things are going to get a bit murky. Yes, Taylor Sheridan is saying something about the war on drugs, and quite honestly it could be what many think, but there is something about how Sheridan and director Denis Villeneuve are saying about it that makes the film, like I pointed out earlier, unapologetic

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Finally, the last bits that make Sicario all that more effective and great is the chilling and atmospheric score by Johann Johannsson that really elevates a lot of the tension filled scenes. Seriously, Sicario is jam packed with tension from beginning to end, and some nice twists that believe me, the trailers really don’t give away. The other great thing about the film is some of the cinematography by one of the best in the business, Roger Deakins. Some of Deakins shots that are mixed with Johnnsson’s score are just so great by themselves, but mixed with the themes and what leads to them makes the film more worthwhile at the end.

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All in all, Sicario is lead by great performances by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and more importantly Benicio Del Toro. The film is unapologetic, raw, and bleak, along with being an effective tension filled thriller that I have experienced in years. Will it be for everyone? No, the film is tough and heavy to watch, but layered underneath all that, is a great film.

Sicario

5 out of 5

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