Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

In several respects, I think we all knew as fans that BLACK PANTHER WAKANDA FOREVER would not – indeed could not – be the Marvel Movie most of us WANTED to see as the follow-on to the original “Black Panther’ movie.  The unexpected death of Chadwick Bozeman almost FORCES this movie to be something other than the straightforward, high-energy continuation of the original story arc it’s safe to assume most of its fans hoped to see at the conclusion of 2018’s“Black Panther” … and so it is not.  But it is an interesting and good movie in it’s own right, with all of the things we all expect in a Marvel superhero movie – action, familiar characters, tight and interesting story telling, sneaky humor – and in many respects it opens up the larger story of the Black Panther and Wakanda to the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which I suspect will be a good thing going forward.

The movie does have an air of sadness about it – the movie opens with Princess Shuri frantically racing to find a technological solution to her brother’s fatal illness, a fight she cannot and does not win.  The Requiem portion of the movie, in which a deeply grieving Wakandan nation celebrates and buries its king while struggling to find a way forward, is a very well done piece of the movie, and sets the tone of – for lack of a better way to say it –the challenges and conflicts around the concept of FOUND BALANCE the primary characters will struggle with for the remainder of the movie.  Angela Bassett does a true star turn as the now aged and sad Wakandan Queen Ramonda who must somehow contain her own grief, hold the hostile forces of the world at bay, and provide a lodestar to the grief maddened Princess.  I should also note the movie tries hard to convey a passing of time since the first movie, of things that have happened … not just the loss of the King, and not even the Blip as they refer to the mind-numbing events around Thanos and his attack on the Homeworld.  But of the passing of many things …

At this point, we are introduced to the ‘villains’ in this movie, Prince Namor and his Talokeans, a staple of the comics world but new to the MCU.  Namor is the first publicly named MUTANT in the MCU (with significant implications for future movies one supposes!) and his Talokeans are a blue skinned race of modified humans – descended from the Mayans surviving in the Yucatan at the time of the Spanish Conquest – saved by a variant of vibranium influenced plant life, and representing a mighty but hidden undersea kingdom.  In addition, the Talokeans possess vast amounts of vibranium, and to a vibranium obsessed world could potentially represent an alternate source of the precious mineral.  Namor of course is determined to prevent his people being mistreated by the surface world, and he tries to force the Wakandans to both cover his actions to date – he has committed an act of war against the Americans for example – and do things he thinks he wants relative to the surface world.  Queen Ramonda sees this as madness immediately, but isn’t quite sure how to handle yet another wrinkle in her world …

The interactions between Namor and Shuri, and the Talokeans and Wakanda, play out the challenges of FOUND BALANCE throughout much of the remainder of the movie.  Namor, who has kept his people hidden under the seas for the last 500 or so years, has been isolated for so long he no longer knows HOW to find balance with friend or foe, and so he rushes to war.  Shuri, who rejects the mystical side of her traditional culture in the rush of youth and her need to absorb all that she has lost at such a young age – a point made quite subtly by the Elder M’Baku of the Jabari tribe after the funeral of her mother – likewise does not know how to balance the blind rage she feels towards Namor and the Talokeans as anger and urgency becomes war and its ugly aftermath.  There are a number of action scenes between the Talokeans and the Wakandas throughout the movie, and they provide more than enough of the high energy one normally expects – indeeds looks for! – in a Marvel movie!

In the end of course, the strength of Wakanda’s traditional culture, and indeed of the Black Panther itself, asserts itself in time to prevent disaster from occurring, and the madness of war is halted, with the promise of a tentative but positive alliance in place between the Wakandans and the Talokeans to protect the vibranium.  This then gives the Princess Shuri time to process her own losses and begin her own healing process, as she realizes she must move to take on the mantle of the Wakandan throne. 

The movie ends on a surprising and sad but overall, quite positive note. The door is left open for future installments.

I would note there were a couple of particularly effective performances worth noting.  As mentioned above, Angela Bassett was simply outstanding as Queen Ramonda throughout the movie.  Winston Duke brought a seriousness and depth to the M’Baku character that makes it clear he will play an outsized role in the story arcs going forward.  Tenoch Heurta did an outstanding job as Namor, a difficult character and one who will play an important role throughout the MCU going forward.  I should also note the Marvel people have managed to keep the humor rolling throughout this movie, even given its somewhat somber tone, and that provides a welcome relief through much of the movie.

If you are a Marvel Universe fan, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” should not be missed.

This is a 4 Star Movie!!

Black Adam in AMC Dolby

Black Adam in AMC Dolby

Another installment from DC Comics…5,000 years ago Black Adam was entombed after magical powers were bestowed upon him. Now in modern times Black Adam is freed from his earthly tomb ready to unleash his unique form of justice upon the modern world. The story unfolds from there…

No real plot or story… The movie will overwhelm you with a ton of action and special effects that mean absolutely NOTHING… This is not one of Dwayne Johnson’s best movies.  Lots of characters and not sure who the foes were. The dialog was also lacking. This was a highly anticipated movie that left me extremely disappointed. Lots of potential that did not payoff.

In fact, I saw “Black Adam” Friday afternoon, but was so disappointed I needed to really think about what I wanted to say before posting a review.

“Black Adam” is not worth the price of admission. See it on Cable or a Streaming Service.

This is a 2 Star Movie!!

The Woman King in AMC Dolby

The Woman King in AMC Dolby

Viola Davis is back on the big screen!! Wow!! What an entrance she has made. 

“The Woman King” is a great story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the West African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800’s with skills and a fierceness that were unmatched.  

The movie is inspired by true events that did occur. The story follows the epic saga of General Nanisca (Viola Davis) as she trains the next generation of female warriors and readies them for a battle against an enemy who is determined to destroy the Dahomey People. The story unfolds from there…

Moving story, good plot, lots of action and also a bit bloody at times. The cinematography was on point. You will be on the edge of your seat for most of the 2 hours and 15 minutes. The story speaks to the empowerment of woman.

Only in Theaters, “The Woman King” is definitely worth a look.

This is a 5 Star Movie!!

Bullet Train in AMC Dolby

Bullet Train in AMC Dolby

Brad Pitt is “Ladybug” an assassin who after a few derailments of assignments is determined to complete all of his assignments peacefully no matter what. As fate would have it, Ladybug’s latest assignment puts him in the path of some dangerous adversaries from around the globe. All of them have a connection although their objectives are different. All of this is taking place on the world’s fastest high-speed train. The story unfolds from there…

I had high hopes for this movie being that Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock are both starring in it and one of the Producers is Antoine Fuqua. The movie is a high-speed chase through Japan…But alas…The story runs off the rails, you are not sure who is actually a bad guy or who can be trusted and there does not seem to be a destination/ending which leaves the train to just continuously speed on never ending tracks ultimately to derail. This movie could turn into a Franchise…Imagine “Bullet Train 2”. If this happens, I certainly hope the next installment is better than the first.

“Bullet Train” is only open in Theaters.

This is a 2 Star Movie!!

The Minions: Rise of Gru

The Minions: Rise of Gru

They say laughter is good for the soul. Well, there has not been much to laugh about lately, but if you see this latest installment of the Minions with all of their silliness, you will laugh.

Set in the 1970s, Gru is growing up in the suburbs. A fan of the super villain / super group known as “The Vicious 6”, Gru hatches a plan to become evil enough to join them. To his luck Gru gets some mayhem making backup from his loyal followers. Kevin, Stuart, Bob and new comer Otto who all deploy their skills to assist Gru in helping him make their first weapon and pull of their first mission, but the Vicious 6 have other ideas. The story unfolds from there…

This is not the best installment in this franchise, but the silliness and laughter it brings makes it worth checking out. There are a few silly gags, some laugh out loud moments and some karate type props that make this a fun diversion. If nothing else the star-studded cast, makes you want to see/hear who is doing the voices of these silly characters. 


Believe or not, there were only adults in the theater when I saw this movie.


“The Minions: Rise of Gru” is open in Theaters

This is a 3 ½ Star Movie!!

Memory

Memory

Liam Neeson plays Alex Lewis, an expert assassin who gets caught up in a web of deception when he refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization. The FBI is on his tail as well as members of the organization that he did not deliver for. It’s a game of cat and mouse. The story unfolds from there…

I love Liam Neeson. He possesses a certain set of skills, but unfortunately “Memory” is unmemorable. This is not Liam Neeson’s fault, he did the best he could with what he was given. The story and action are stale and the plot’s not far behind. Is it possible for me to get the time back in my life that I spent watching this?

“Memory” did not open in theaters and now I understand why. It’s available to stream for a fee on Amazon Prime. “Memory” is definitely not one of Liam Neeson’s best movies, but if you are bored with nothing to do, check out “Memory” to see some of Liam Neeson’s certain skills.

This is a 2 Star Movie!!

Jurassic World Dominion in AMC Dolby

Jurassic World Dominion in AMC Dolby

This installment is supposed to be the EPIC conclusion where two generations unite for the first time. Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill meet up with Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt. Together they battle a bold new world filled with prehistoric Dinosaurs as well as Scientific lab experimental Dinosaurs that have been bred in captivity. These Dinosaurs live and hunt right alongside humans all over the world.

Things get out of control when a Scientist makes a mistake and uses the wrong DNA formula and a flying gigantic looking Grass Hopper / Beetle is born and they create havoc in Texas as well as other places. In the meantime, there are several other stories that unfold and ultimately intersect.

This is 2 hours and 27 minutes of chaos. There is no plot, but there is a very tiny back story that appears half way through the movie. While the past comes together with the present, it’s not clear what the group is trying to accomplish. There is great acting, but that is not enough to save this installment. The cinematography is very good. There is some crazy cool action, but alas I found myself a bit bored. Things heated up toward the end but, by that point I just wanted it to be over.

It’s been four years since the last Jurassic installment, I expected better.

This is a 2 ½ Star Movie!!

Top Gun: Maverick in AMC Dolby

Top Gun: Maverick in AMC Dolby

It’s been 36 years since the 1986 “Top Gun” movie came to the big screen. 

In this new installment Top Aviator “Pete” Maverick Mitchell (Tom Cruise) pushes the Aviation envelope and lands a promotion that would ground him. In order to dodge being grounded Maverick has been summoned back to the Top Gun Aviator School from which he graduated to train the new recruits for a specialized mission that is dangerous, but also necessary. While there, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller) call sign: “Rooster” who is the son of his late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw aka. “Goose”. These encounters bring back memories, some of which Maverick would like to forget. All Maverick can do at this point is forge ahead. The story unfolds from there… 

“Top Gun: Maverick” is a sequel that satisfies. 36 Years later Tom Cruise still looks to be having the time of his life. The movie is full of excitement and the story is compelling. There is definitely intrigue, suspense, a ton of aviation type action and great cinematography.

If you enjoyed “Top Gun” you will surely enjoy this new installment.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is definitely worth a look.

This is a 5 Star Movie!!

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in AMC Dolby

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in AMC Dolby

Finally, Dr. Strange is back!! I really enjoyed the first installment and was glad to see that a 2nd installment has arrived.

This installment really pushes the boundaries of Dr. Strange’s abilities. The Multiverse is unlocked and the journey with Dr. Strange is long and intense. This journey is mind bending, dangerous and forces Dr. Strange to confront a new adversary. 

Dr. Strange even gets the help of mystical allies old and new from far and wide. Is it enough? You will have to see the movie to find out. 

The movie is intense, crazy, mad, at times scary and a bit insane, but… also, fantastic to look at. The Visuals are on point. The story its self has holes, but with the great acting, special effects and fantastic cinematography, I can forgive the lack luster story and plot.

If you are a fan of Marvel Universe and Dr. Strange, this installment should not be missed.

This is a 4 Star Movie!!

The Batman in AMC Dolby

The Batman in AMC Dolby

Did we need another Batman movie? I don’t know about you, but I thought that after the awesome Dark Knight Trilogy with Christian Bale and Director Christopher Nolan that there would not be any more “Cape Crusader” stories, but boy was I wrong…

So here we are in 2022 embarking on another round of potential installments of Batman tales. 

Batman finds himself dealing with the dark underworld of Gotham City. There is a sadistic killer running free and he has been able to stay two or more steps in front of Batman and the Gotham City police. The evidence starts to mount and points closer to home. As the killer’s ultimate plot comes to light, Batman must forge new relationships and work frantically to unmask the evil killer before Gotham City is totally destroyed. The story unfolds from there…

The story is dark, gritty and gripping. I went into seeing “The Batman” planning to compare it to The Dark Knight Trilogy. While there are some parts of the movie that does not cover new ground, there are some parts that do. There is some really cool action and a super nasty car chase that reminds me of the one in “The Bourne Supremacy”. I will say that I did not find the “Riddler” as entertaining as the “Joker”. The Cat Woman helps make things interesting. The running time is 2 hours and 56 minutes. That is 24 minutes longer than “The Dark Knight”. A new story is told and the door is open from another.

If you are a DC Comic fan, “The Batman” should not be missed.

This is a 4 Star Movie!!