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Marvel’s Black Panther

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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.

Finally, the movie that everyone has been anticipating is here. Marvel Studio’s Black Panther. Everyone is picking out their Afro’s, ironing their Dashikis and, no lie, tonight I saw a woman dressed like she was going to a Nigerian wedding. This movie is bringing a lot of Black pride. The question is, does it live up to the hype? Yeah, it does.

At first I was a bit concerned with the direction the movie was headed in. It seemed to be telling a few tales, jumping around different timelines and scenes, but the early disjointedness eventually lined up to tell a very compelling story.

The look and feel of Wakanda was spectacular. The land, the technology, and the art was visual eye candy that merged a futuristic city with a land still tied to its roots. This was a major theme of the movie.

I did feel there weren’t enough actual Black Panther moments, but it didn’t hurt the movie at all. If you see a Spider-Man movie, you always wan’t more Spider-Man and less Peter Parker, but these characters were so engaging, seeing more Black Panther wasn’t as necessary.

As far as acting, this film had a great star-studded cast, but the definite standouts were Michael B. Jordan and Danai Gurira (Michonne from The Walking Dead). It’s rare to see Jordan playing the bad guy, but he owned the role of Killmonger and his radicalized agenda. Gurira brought a level of bad-assery I was not expecting and you can tell she put a lot of work into fleshing out Okoye, Black Panther’s number one bodyguard.

The one flaw I found with the film was the motion CGI. The Black Panther character, for example, at times came off too rendered and sometimes appeared to be anatomically distorted. The interaction with the environment at moments felt off, but it wasn’t overly distracting. The saving grace is that it’s a comic book movie so they can get away with more from that aspect. Luckily the acting was so good it pulled most of your attention away from these shortcomings.

I also like that there were several little nuggets, messages, and takeaways in the movie and it doesn’t whitewash the real-life history and struggles Black people have faced. It looks at it through several different lenses and leaves it open to honest discussion. This was a good addition to the MCU, and I look forward to seeing Black Panther kick ass throughout the next few movies!

Overall Grade: B+

Black Panther 
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Black Cinema
February 2018
Director: Ryan Coogler
Universal Pictures
2 hours 14 minutes
IMDB

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Daniel Ortiz Rants on: The Nun

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A priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania and confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.

Before I get into this review, lets talk briefly about The Conjuring cinematic universe. Now, the first Conjuring, I didn’t find it scary, but I did find it very entertaining. The second Conjuring I found to be pretty creepy. Both of these movies were directed by James Wan who also directed Insidious 1 & 2. When it comes to horror, some of his stories have continuity problems, and plot conveniences, but the man really knows how to utilize creepiness and maintain real and unexpected jump scares. It gets you invested in the movie based on fear alone. He’s so good at it, he was able to spawn spinoff films, first with the Annabelle series and now with The Nun.

The problem is that he doesn’t lend his directorial skills to these extended films, and well…they end up falling flat. I will give credit to Annabelle 2: Uprising (as I like to call it). It was better than the first one, but it was definitely no masterpiece.

Now with that brief history of the CCU (as I like to call it) out of the way, lets keep the critique of The Nun short and sweet. It was doo doo.

At the very least I assumed that the film would touch on some things that would play against my faith, but this felt like a story that even Catholics would say, “Dude, you guys have some great imaginations!” It felt entirely too tame, extremely predictable and the story was way too outlandish.

The characters were boring, bland and unforgettable. The demon nun was even boring and lacked a coherent or credible background story. It made me realize that you can take the same character, and one Director make magic it while the other makes smoke and mirrors.

Lets keep the critique of The Nun short and sweet. It was doo doo.

The jump-scares were literally stand-scares. I predicted every single moment that was supposed to be a, “catch you off guard” scare scene, and found myself highly annoyed by the trope of following an ambiguous figure pacing vigorously away from the main protagonists while the protagonist chased them down some dark corridor or smoky forest.

As usual, they try to tie this back to the original Conjuring movie, but it was weak, and you barely remember the original scene in the first place.

Overall Grade: D

It wasn’t good. That’s the end all of it. I would suggest staying home and re-watching The Conjuring 1 & 2. You will get much more out of watching these films. I would also suggest leaving these cinematic universes to Marvel and D.C……just Marvel.


The Nun
Horror, Mystery, Thriller
September 2018
Director: Corin Hardy
New Line Cinema
1 hour 36 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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Review: Blackkklansman

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“Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white surrogate, who eventually becomes head of the local branch.”

1534992123915Spike Lee’s work has always taken a unique look at the black perspective in America. His earlier works were filled with social commentary that tended to put a magnifying glass on the racial turmoil and bleakness of the black experience. He found a way to make humor out of every day circumstances, then blend it seamlessly with an overall message of human nature within race relations whether good or very bad.

Unfortunately, his later works have suffered a lack of that perfect blend.  They often shift tones so rapidly, his audience can’t comprehend what type of emotion to investment in. I feel that this film suffers from that extreme tone shift.

Not only does the story lack a certain cohesion, there wasn’t any true sense of danger the audience could feel the protagonists were in. The interpretation of the Klansmen was so inept, they failed to do simple things like search a new recruit for a wire or do a thorough background check. Now, I never want to give any credit to the KKK, but one would think a criminal organization such as this one would take the necessary measures to make sure their prospects were legit.

The acting was somewhat decent, but often the levels of racism seemed cartoonish and more ignorant than threatening. Even the character of Ron Stallworth came off as a 90’s black comedian impersonating a white man (even when he wasn’t on the phone). I don’t blame this on the actors but more on the direction.

The racism seemed cartoonish and more ignorant than threatening.

Spike Lee also added commentary in the middle and after the movie that was loosely related to the overall story and once again switch emotional tones between funny moments and brutal stories of racial tensions in America. The soundtrack also seemed to be off. Serious moments weren’t reflected in what we heard and this is integral to creating urgency within the viewer.

Overall Grade: C

Even with my harsh rant, I don’t think its a bad watch. I actually encourage folks to go see this movie for the historical relevance. I just think that the constant shift in tone, sound and emotions muddy down what would otherwise be considered a pretty bad-ass story.

Blackkklansman
Biography, Comedy, Crime
August 2018
Director: Spike Lee
Legendary Entertainment/Blumhouse
2 hour 15 minutes
IMDB reference click here

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‘Sorry to Bother You’ Just Might

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It’s impossible to review Boots Riley’s directorial debut Sorry to Bother You without giving too much away. Before I spoil the surprises, let me say there is much to like about this surrealist dark comedy even as the film tries to toss you from the roller-coaster at regular intervals.

Cassius Green, the young African-American telemarketer played by Lakeith Stanfield, learns that faking a white voice on the phone is the only way to make money when cold calling. David Cross supplies the overdubbed white voice.

The thought of unionizing with his underpaid co-workers is thrown out the window when Cassius is promoted to Power Caller. Power Callers sell a whole different product – a work/life opportunity called WorryFree that is ostensibly slave labor. This doesn’t sit well with his unionizing friends, nor his artist/activist girlfriend Detroit, played by the impure-thought-inducing Tessa Thompson. Cassius has a choice to make that becomes clearer as the plot dives into absolute absurdity.

Nothing may prepare you for the half-horse half-human workhorses that show up in the third act.

Nothing may prepare you for the half-horse half-human workhorses that show up in the third act. Their B-movie bodies (replete with certain horse-like appendages) steal any bit of nuance from the story.

Armie Hammer plays Steve Lift, CEO of WorryFree, with a keen interest in leveraging Cassius as a “Martin Luther King type” workhorse he can control from the inside. Yes, there’s something to offend anyone that doesn’t know how to digest satire – from Detroit’s Murder Murder Murder earrings, to one dimensional white villains, an orgy scene, a two worded rap, and more horse peen than you can shake a stick at.

Yet it somehow works, at least for me. Reminds me of a time in the late eighties to mid-nineties when movies could be looser, made on the cheap, and weren’t expected to gross a hundred million dollars to be successful. Sorry to Bother You cost a little over three million and has made about fifteen as of this writing.

I’m not saying Boots Riley’s debut is comparable to, say, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, but it does set the stage for his Do The Right Thing.

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