Movie Review: Black Panther

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Long live, King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)! (Source: IMDb)

T’Challa–otherwise known as the Black Panther–made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. He is such a cool superhero! Dressing up in his black suit and panther mask, he grants super speed, strength, stamina. It was great to see him kick ass at the airport with Iron Man, Captain America, among others. Two years later, we finally get to see Black Panther’s solo feature. I can’t picture a better time to see it!

Black Panther is the first big-budget extravaganza from director Ryan Coogler. From the overlooked indie film Fruitvale Station to Creed, the miraculous entry in the Rocky franchise, he is becoming one of the greatest filmmakers of this generation.

After the events of Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his African homeland of the technologically advanced Wakanda. He takes the throne as the new king who wants to keep his people safe. However, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan, Coogler’s frequent collaborator) and his ally Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a South African arms dealer, seek to overthrow him. While putting his country’s fate over the edge, he suits up and joins forces with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead), Shuri (a scene-stealing Letitia Wright), and CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). Together, they must prevent the two from annihilation.

If I ramble on about this movie, I’ll spoil it for everyone. With a screenplay written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, this contains the humor and thrills as expected in an MCU film, as well as morals, politics, and visual wonder (great cinematography by Mudbound‘s Rachel Morrison!). Boseman is the perfect choice to play Black Panther, and he leads a marvelous cast featuring Jordan (as MCU’s best villain), Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, and the legendary Forest Whitaker. Black Panther is officially my favorite film in the MCU, surpassing Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. This is destined to be a classic!

4/4

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Movie Review: The 15:17 to Paris

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Spencer Stone (as himself) notices something is seriously wrong on the train in Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris. (Source: The Houston Chronicle)

Clint Eastwood is no stranger when it comes to hiring non-actors in his movies. For instance, the Hmong community in Gran Torino give such natural performances as different characters. In his latest film, The 15:17 to Paris, he casts three friends who were involved in an act of courage during a terrorist attack on a train to Paris. Two of them served in the U.S. military. One thing in common? They play themselves.

Not only is it their first movie together, I’m positive this will be their last. It’s a shame considering how a legend like Eastwood went from The Outlaw Josey Wales to the Oscar-winning Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby to Gran Torino to American Sniper to Sully. He has never made a bad movie until The 15:17 to Paris.

Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone have been best friends since middle school. They would spend more time in the principal’s (Thomas Lennon) office than in the classroom. The mothers of Alek and Spencer (Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer) stick up for their sons whenever they meet up with their teachers and the principal. Years later, while Alek and Spencer join the military, they decide to bring Anthony for a summer vacation in Europe. They have a great time until the unthinkable happens on August 21, 2015 when they board a train from Amsterdam to Paris.

There is so much potential to be had with The 15:17 to Paris. This powerful story featuring three American heroes playing themselves offers so little. The three men are truly terrible actors and the supporting cast try way too hard (what the hell are you doing here, Jaleel White?). Instead, they are trapped in a plot (written by Dorothy Blyskal) wrapped with inept, wooden dialogue and shallow pacing. Leading up to the terrorist attack (the saving grace of this terrible movie), the movie features Skype chats, selfies, and discipline. There is nothing much happening. Once the movie finally picks it up within the last twenty minutes, it showcases the intensity and sheer realism of the event. Other than that, this is a wasted opportunity.

1/4