Shakespeare in Africa.
The introduction of Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War is an excellent example of introducing a new character without a ton of flashbacks or expositions dumps and how to have a well-develop subplot with supporting characters that have depth.
But does Black Panther have enough to stretch into an entire movie based on him?
The story of Black Panther feels unique and fresh than a lot of superhero movies in the past. Part of this is because it isn't an origin story about a kid who got bit by a panther but is about the transition of power and our hero learning the struggles and dark secrets of being a king. The story covers some same tropes as other superhero films but plays out more like a light Shakespeare play set in Africa with a splash of James Bond. You won't get it till you see it, but it's great!
A majority of the film takes place in the fictional country of Wakanda which the director, Ryan Coogler, described as 'Afrofuturism.' It followed the idea of what if an African nation wasn't colonized and ripped of resources or people but grew and flourished to be the most advanced country in the world, and it is beautiful. The futuristic nation that leans a lot more in the sci-fi realm with an enormous amount of African culture and heritage in it, especially in the costumes which when you look at where they got the inspiration from, it's impressive.
Following that line of thought the score for the film, for the most part, doesn't sound like a Marvel film. I applaud this as past Marvel films have had a weak spot in the scores with a lot of them sounding a bit repetitive. Black Panther does have dull moments in the music, but overall you can hear the inspiration in the music from African nations, and it is great! There is a part however with a chase scene, done splendidly, that has a song, written and performed by Kendrick Lamar, that I wish they had turned the volume up on the song and down on the driving and shooting. That is more of a sound mixing complaint than a score one.
Lucky, all the creative settings, costumes, music, and plot are not in vain as the character are far from paper thin. Reaching from our hero and villain to the supporting cast, they are all the one thing that stuck out the most during the whole movie. All the performances are top notch, and the characters they represent are all well rounded with clear values and goals that even collide with allies making this one of the best acted Marvel films yet.
In all, Black Panther is above all a solid movie that feels unique and is a breath of fresh air with the settings, costumes, music, and acting that come together to make one of the best Marvel movies yet. So, watch it and have a blast!
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So, The Room.
The Room is considered the worst movie ever made, and The Disaster Artist is all about the making of it. The Disaster Artist follows Tommy Wiseau, the writer/director/producer/lead actor of The Room, and Greg Sestero, the supporting actor and author of the book that they used as the source material for this stranger than fiction tale.
You may ask if you need to see The Room before this film to appreciate it. I would say watching one of the many videos on how bad it is, and you will do just fine. There is a reason it is considered the worst movie ever. But is the movie about the worst movie ever made also bad?
In short, no.
In the starting scene, we are introduced to Greg Sestero, our main line of connection, as we see him painfully stumble through an acting class. It isn’t long till we meet Tommy Wiseau and see an even worst acting performance but also something else that Greg desperately wants. Bravery. We see an awkward friendship between them form, and before we know it, Greg is moving from San Francisco to Los Angles with Tommy. A move that makes part of you agree with his mother as she protests to her nineteen-year-old son’s move to a new place to share an apartment with a man in his late thirties wearing two belts and sunglasses.
We progress through the film mainly focused on their friendship with a lot of laughs along the way. The movie’s jokes are not through traditional punchlines but in the similar spirit that The Room unintentionally got its laughs. Through conversation topics, awkward looks, or mainly Tommy’s accent. James Franco’s accent is spot on which helps with the comedy but hurts with the serious conversations that come in a few times near the end. It wasn’t till the last heart to heart talk in the movie where I finally didn’t laugh as much but just gave some chuckles. Putting so much of the comedy on the accent and Tommy’s character puts a lot of weight on Franco, but he carries it well being able to deliver all his funny conversations and speeches as you think about how old he really is.
The Disaster Artist pays large and small homages to The Room. From shedding light to the main inspiration of the most memorable line of the movie to visual continuity errors, like having several kids having the same football in the background. It is these things that make it more enjoyable to fans of The Room, and that is who the film mainly targets.
Though the lens of the movie is on the friendship between Greg and Tommy, the main idea of chasing your dreams is the heart of the film. It delivers the idea well with showing the two friends never stopping from encouraging each other on their quest to be actors. It also shows what happens when you don’t give someone constructive criticism and say everything they do is great. However, The Disaster Artist fails to drive home the point as Tommy can chase his dreams fully because he can finance a full film crew. The film stays true to life, but you still can’t seem to shake the feeling that you could throw caution to the wind and chase your dreams just like Tommy if you had six million dollars just sitting in your bank account.
In the end, fans of The Room will enjoy every bit of The Disaster Artist while casual moviegoers will either laugh along or feel quite uncomfortable just like if they were watching The Room.
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Yes, there is singing and dancing.
If you don't like musicals, you may want to stop reading as this is a musical. A musical about the real-life P. T. Barnum, the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Following his ideas, rise and dips along his journey to creating the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Since I am now only talking to those who watch musicals, let's go straight to the meat of it. The songs.
If you did not know, the songs were written and composed by Pasek and Paul, their most notable work before this was a little film called La La Land. Pasek and Paul do an excellent job; there isn't one song during the whole film that you can point out as bad. They all have a show tune vibe to them yet have a modern feel which is smart as it carries over the theme of what Barnum is trying to do with his new business. Are they as great as La La Land, no but you won't be disappointed.
To the people singing the songs and doing the dances, there wasn't an off-key voice or an out of step foot anywhere. Huge Jackman's voice carries just as it did in Le Miserable, but with a much lighter and happier tone, just like the entire movie. Zac Efron shows that he still has a healthy career ahead of him but Zendaya, though still relatively new to the film industry, goes the extra mile that shows she has the potential to be a heavy hitting actress.
The story took a different route than I expected, but then again, I didn't know anything about P. T. Barnum before this so, it had that going for it. However, the story is similar to 'a man who learned' story, but The Greatest Showman partook of the rise. They do a great job helping you root for Barnum until two thirds in when you find yourself saying to Barnum "Come on man," as you wonder if he will come to his sense.
Not going to lie, the CGI animals threw me off along with some human shrinking they did for one character. My family didn't notice it that much, but it is off-putting if you can see it. Though, this is a musical and not Star Wars. And the history The Barnum & Bailey Circus has with animals, it was a safe path to take using CGI ones.
All in all, a fun ride that I enjoyed. Fans of musicals will love it, and any moviegoer will walk away delighted as it was what seemed like one of the few well-made feel-good movies of 2017.
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Let us set the stage first.
The original Blade Runner film was released 1982 to low box office numbers and mixed critical reviews across the board. Time, however, has a way of weeding things out and letting only the best continue to stand, and over the course of 35 years and seven different cuts of the film, Blade Runner proved to be one of the best science fiction movies ever and the greatest cyberpunk movie of all time.
So, of course, the bar was set extremely high for director Denis Villeneuve, who himself is a huge Blade Runner fan, who knew that fans like him would watch the sequel with a high attention to detail and scrutiny.
And just looking at the cast and crew, you can tell the studio knew that too, hence them bringing together the best team they could for this project. Stretching from one of the original writers for the first movie, Hampton Fancher, to bringing on one of this generation's greatest actors, Ryan Gosling, in the leading role.
The pieces were set, but, did they pull it off?
In short, yes.
I knew I was going in overhyped for this film and because of that in the few minutes walking out of the movie theater I was the tiniest bit let down. But given time, I saw myself continual thinking over the film just like the first one, and, though, with a few flaws, this was the best sequel Denis Villeneuve could deliver.
The small flaws I had trouble with are tied to spoilers so I will refrain from discussing them. They don't hurt the overall plot, and it makes sense, but it seemed to just fall into similar unoriginal tropes that haunt blockbuster movies. However, even seconds after it happens the film quickly refocuses and still lands the ending beautifully.
Beyond that and too much nudity for my taste, the rest of the film is fantastic!
Before going into the good stuff, I should point out something that some people will notice if they watch it and may be turned off by and that is the pacing. Like the movie it follows, this isn't an action pack film. It takes its time, which I love but I know some won't, which I may talk about in another blog, but for now, on to the good stuff about the film.
Ryan Gosling does another Oscar-worthy performance; the man knows how to act with his eyes. Harison Ford also gives the best performance of his career and all the supporting cast, known and unknown, blow it away. Jered Leto's performance is strange but fits the character.
Han Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch do an incredible job with the score. Creating a unique sound but paying homage to the original theme at the perfect moments.
The cinematography, done by Roger Deakins, is his greatest work and his most Oscar deserving yet. You know this within the first minute of the movie and the brilliance he puts into it. It's beautiful!
Along with the rest of the talented crew, Denis Villeneuve was able to pull off a proper sequel to a sci-fi classic. Continuing and expanding the thought-provoking themes while leaving questions from the first one ambiguous. Broadening and advancing the scope of the world we left but keeping it, for the most part, focused on a single character and themes that made the original Blade Runner stand the test.
If you love the original, you will definitely enjoy this movie that I believe will hold up like its predecessor did when time starts to weed on it.
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To set the context, I was already pretty excited for Baby Driver when I saw the first trailer several months ago. I think part of that was because of my love for the Ryan Gosling film, Drive, as both have similar themes, a crime heist set around the getaway driver, and that is where the similarities end. Adding on to this was an A list of actors and the great comedy director and writer, Edger Wright. I hoped it was going to be at least good.
It was and so much more!
The first five minutes set the tone of the film extremely well as it starts with the protagonist, Baby, (yes, his name is Baby) sitting in a car with three robbers moments before the heist. Baby throws in his Apple earbuds and starts the music as the robbers get out and enter the bank in the middle of a sunny day. Baby stays in the car and jams out to his music, dancing and singing along in a way that makes you instantly relate to him as we all have had those moments. His jam session has quick breaks as he and the audience observe the robbery from the car. Baby's face giving us a great look at his discomfort to it and insight into his character. The robbers finally return, and they speed off to the first car chase in the film with the song Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosions blaring to the rhythm of the chase, and we see why Baby is the best.
To not mention the music or the driving in Baby Driver would be similar to watching Singing in the Rain and not talking about the music and dance numbers because Baby Driver takes a lot of hints from musicals films. There is a constant run of music in the background as Baby is almost always listening to music to drown out his chronic tinnitus, a constant buzzing in the ears. Because of the constant music, the movie uses it to help find an almost musical rhythm to the character's movements, the action, and the chase scenes. Baby's character is built well using this condition to portray who he is by his mounds of iPods for the different moods he is in and cassette tapes of his creation.
The writing is fantastic, and the actors and actresses play their parts perfectly. The pairing up of characters with Baby worked perfectly be it the tension with his crime boss, the chemistry with his love interest, or the family aspect with his deaf foster father. All of it was fleshing out the characters beautifully. I also found myself several times surprised by the characters choices, but it never felt out of character for any of them as the surprises were a reaction to another character's instant action or a build up of actions.
The action scenes are great, and the chase scenes are some of the best I have seen in years. Never was I lost in what is going on or didn't know where the characters were. Action films need to have good continuity editing, and this movie has it.
Baby Driver is, without question, my favorite Edgar Wright film and is definitely a heavy contender for my favorite film of the year. I left the theater physically fighting the urge to speed home while listening to the soundtrack on Spotify.
So, if you can't tell by now, I loved the movie, and you should see it as soon as you can but please, follow the traffic laws after you see it. Safty first!
Thanks for reading!
Baby Driver is Copyright of TriStar Pictures and associated production companies.
The way I was going into this movie was with high hopes but also a tiny bit of worry that it wouldn't hold up to the hype.
That quickly faded with the first scene of the film, a scene that set a much different tone than any other X-Men movie. A tone that similar to a noir western that happens to have superheroes in it, but you will find no capes or costumes here. This is an R-rated superhero movie that uses its rating to help set the tone and build its characters instead of being R just to be R.
The rest of the film is a journey no other superhero film. From the writing to the editing, everything either hits the mark spot on or gets super close.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give their best performances of these characters with Dafne Keen who gives one of the best performances by a child actress or actor I have ever seen. The rest of the cast does an exceptional job in their roles.
The cinematography is excellent, and the score is unique and creative! One scene did a great job of making you feel like you were enduring something that Logan was enduring as well, and once it was over, you felt a small bit of relief before jumping back in it.
The action scenes are great, and the edits never get confusing as to what is happening. Though I personally would have liked to see some wider shots of the fight scenes, I believe the director was smart with keeping the camera close in on the fights as that is how the Wolverine fights.
The writing is geniuses as it focuses more on the main characters than big set piece moments or how this movie fits into the messed up X-Men timeline.
Speaking of the timeline, you may wonder how this movie fits with all the time travel and reboots the series has faced. The movie doesn't spend any time in trying to explain any of it and just stays on the characters and where they are. However, the best explanation for the timeline I've heard is from the smart guys on The Weekly Planet Podcast. They believe that the real X-Men cannon is Logan and the first X-Men film. The rest of the movies are just made up stories. This is stated by Logan as he finds a stash of X-Men comics and makes a comment how it didn't happen like that.
That is another beauty of this film, you can go with this theory or another one of your own, and it still stands as a great movie. Because of its focus on a small cast of deep characters instead of a shallow sea of characters and a large plot that is becoming more popular than ever.
If you can't tell by now, I loved Logan and would dare say it is my favorite comic book movie ever. That doesn't make it perfect as I am sure the next few times I see it I will see some mistakes. But it is definitely worth a watch at the theater and is a perfect send off for Professor X and the Wolverine!
Logan and all rights are Copyrights of Marvel Comics and Fox Studios
GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW!!!!
Like Really! If you have Netflix and enjoy great stories with great plots, amazing characters, suspense that keeps you on your toes, and a soundtrack that is one of the most original and innovative soundtracks to come out in years, then this is the show for you!
If that didn't convince you to drop everything you are doing and to start watching the eight-episode series right now, then let me try to convince you further.
The best way I can describe Stranger Things in a couple of words is, "Stranger Things is a love letter to E.T." The story takes a lot of beats from E.T. but is still original. It always feels fresh and new with a hint of nostalgia.
Here's the thing, though, if you haven't seen E.T. you will still love it! And if you have, when you do get to those moments the creators use your preconceived notions to surprise you every time.
Stranger Things also does a great job at slowly introducing you to the world. Not thrusting you into it all at once but easing you in so when they do throw some stuff your way near the end you believe it and it doesn't break the story, the world they created, or the characters.
If you are still unconvinced, just give it a try for my sake. It isn't that much commitment, only eight wonderful episodes, all of them meaningful and helping the story. Once you do, let me know in the comments or on social media so we can talk!
Thanks for reading and you are welcome to those going to go and watch it now! You won't regret it!
© 2015 S. W. Ellenwood. All rights Reserved.