Black Panther (2018)

Director: Ryan Coogler

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

Screenplay: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole

134 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence and a brief rude gesture.

 

Well, Black Panther’s finally here. Compared to every other MCU film to date, Black Panther is one of the titles I hadn’t read until the film was revealed. Like Iron Man before it, I just didn’t know much about the character or the comic, but as soon as I heard about the adaptation and the inclusion of director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station), I wanted to read as much as I could. Black Panther is under a lot of pressure to be good. Expectations have been abnormally high on this one. How did it turn out?

Picking up about a week after the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman, 42, Marshall) arrives home in Wakanda to claim his birthright as King. He is reunited with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), an old flame who sees Wakanda’s secretive advances in technology as a tool to help the world, but T’Challa believes that revealing Wakanda for what it is puts the country in jeopardy and creates enemies. One such enemy is Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, War for the Plane of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin), a smuggler and arms dealer, has allied himself with the mysterious Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, Fantastic Four, That Awkward Moment), who has his own reasons for wanting to reach Wakanda.

Black Panther is one of the most-layered films in the MCU, and it excels in two areas that MCU films regularly fail: the villain and the music. First, the villain is an interesting and flawed character who has understandable motives in his ultimate quest. Just like Civil War before it, Black Panther presents a very interesting dilemma that has merits on both sides of the argument, and T’Challa is just as flawed with his decision as Killmonger.

The music is also a major step up from previous MCU films in that Black Panther has a theme, courtesy of Ludwig Goransson, and its complimented by Kendrick Lamar’s music supervision of the soundtrack. This film has a unique feeling that stands on its own while embracing the tightrope act of the larger MCU framework.

Coogler presents powerful themes in the film like Responsibility and Legacy. While T’Challa doesn’t want to lead from a throne, he is challenged by what has come before. He would rather be out hunting for Klaue himself. He looks up to his father but he is challenged by the difficult decisions T’Chaka had to make as king. T’Challa is forced to confront these difficult decisions and their aftermath, further conflicting his views on the legacy that his father left. The way he interacts with Killmonger, too, brings forth conflicts in identity and the question of nature vs. nurture in their lives.

I think Black Panther is a hell of a showcase of its principal cast. It’s proof of the incredible amount of top-notch performers of all races. Each role was cast with purpose, from Danai Gurira (The Visitor, TV’s The Walking Dead) as Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje, an all-female team of protectors, to Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Arrival) as Zuri, a spiritual figure in Wakanda who protects a special and powerful herb. Every performer in the film is so precisely cast that you couldn’t see anyone else playing that character. I was especially impressed with Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Sicario) as W’Kabi, friend to T’Challa. Up until his role in Get Out, I did not know Kaluuya, but with such a small amount of screen time, he creates a lasting impression in the film.

For all the amazing things Ryan Coogler did with Black Panther, one cannot forget that this is a superhero movie in a crowded genre at the beginning of the year. He should be recognized too for the absolutely incredible experience of watching the film. Black Panther was downright fun to watch and be a part of. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I’d advise you to head to your theater immediately to see it in the largest crowd you can. This is probably my favorite film so far this year.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Neighbors (2014)

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Director: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco

Screenplay: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

97 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout.

 

I thought the trailer for Neighbors was too good to be true, and while in some ways, it did feature a lot of the best material, the movie itself was a laugh riot. It’s my review next.

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Neighbors features Seth Rogen (This is the End, The Interview) as Mac Radner, who along with wife Kelly (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class, Annie), have just settled in at home with their new daughter. Unfortunately for them, they have new neighbors, as a fraternity has just set up shop next door, and leader Teddy (Zac Efron, 17 Again, That Awkward Moment) is about to seriously complicate Mac and Kelly’s lives in his quest to create the biggest party ever and end up on the fraternity wall of fame in this new film from director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, The Five-Year Engagement).

This film immediately appealed to me with a somewhat unique take on the feuding neighbors concept, and with two complete opposites as Rogen and Efron, as well as the comedic additions of Byrne and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie), I thought this movie might actually have something to it. To my satisfaction, I was right. The film, featuring increasingly absurd acts of war upon each other, features some of the funniest lines and gags of 2014. I had a few moments of complete laugh attacks.

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Stoller has nearly mastered the type of films he makes, and Neighbors is no exception, with a tight plot structure and the envelope-pushing battles of old versus young, it has the laughs to become a repeat-viewing film. I know fans of Seth Rogen’s films will find a lot to like here.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

(Seriously, that whole condom thing. Yuck.)

A Long Way Down (2014)

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Director: Pascal Chaumeil

Cast: Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul

Screenplay: Jack Thorne

96 mins. Rated R for language.

 

I like Nick Hornby. I saw him at a writer’s conference some time ago and had the opportunity to just sit and listen to him muse about life and writing. I like Nick Hornby.

A LONG WAY DOWN

I did not like A Long Way Down. I’m speaking about the film here, which is a conflicted little tale about suicide for four people. First we have Martin (Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye, The November Man), a shamed talk show host who has become a social pariah for sleeping with an underage girl. Then there’s Maureen (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls) who struggles with being a parent for a child with special needs. We get Jess (Imogen Poots, Need for Speed, That Awkward Moment), a young girl with daddy issues and a need to prattle. Finally, there is JJ (Aaron Paul, TV’s Breaking Bad, Exodus: Gods and Kings), who has cancer. These four fail to kill themselves on New Year’s Eve when they accidentally pick the same building to jump off. Then they make a pact to stay with each other until Valentine’s Day, when they would try again.

This story is offensive even on the surface. We get characters that make light of the decision to kill themselves, and even regularly joke about it. I found none of this funny. I can stomach a lot, but it even felt like the actors were having troubles with the line reading, stemming from a bad script  by Jack Thorne (TV’s The Fades, The Scouting Book for Boys) from the novel by Nick Hornby. Poor Nick, he has his name attached to this piece of garbage. Everything after the first scene just falls short of remembrance and the plot meanders from one unimportant event to another.

A Long Way Down

With disappointing work from pretty much everyone involved, especially Imogen Poots, who acts as though she will vomit if she can’t get her line out right now, and an ending that you see coming a mile away, A Long Way Down is a dreadful piece of dreck that belongs in a furnace somewhere. Haven’t read the book, but I can bet it is streets ahead.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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