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

Movie Review: Arrival

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Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) sees something in the distance in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. (Source: Seattle Times)

After making two of the best films of the decade—Prisoners and Sicario, director Denis Villeneuve transitions to the realm of science fiction. It’s the kind of science fiction that doesn’t rely on action sequences, but rather on words and ideas.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguistics professor whose lecture is interrupted by news coverage of twelve alien pods hovering in different locations around the world. She is accepted by Colonel GT Weber (Forest Whitaker) to go to a site in Montana where one of the pods is located. As the leader of a group of including theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise tries everything to communicate with the aliens. The closer she gets to solve the mystery, the closer the other nations are to a war.

Like with his two previous films, Villeneuve gives the power of what filmmaking is all about. Something that shakes us to the very core. Something that is realistic. Something that can be discussed about for years. While it can be compared to other sci-fi movies such as Signs or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Arrival is more than just your usual alien invasion flick. It asks questions such as: Who and what are these beings? Why are they here? Do they pose as a threat to humanity, or otherwise?

What’s part of the film’s brilliance is it’s entirely grounded in the realm of the need to communicate. Thanks to a miraculous screenplay by Eric Heisserer, it makes the audience try to solve the puzzle for themselves, while, thanks to the Villeneuve’s smooth direction, absorbing them into the mystery and the majestic beauty of Bradford Young’s cinematography provided by Johann Johannsson’s angelic score. While it doesn’t move at a fast pace, it takes its time to develop questions and makes us wonder the outcome.

Amy Adams’ Louise is so compassionate and persevered that she can do anything to connect with the aliens rather than start a fight with them (I’ll be glad if she gets some Oscar recognition for this movie). Providing enough wit and charisma from Renner and Whitaker, they are also the heart and soul of this devastatingly powerful film.

Arrival is what Interstellar should have been. A rich, thought-provoking, mind-bending experience that has absolutely no time for any B.S. One of the year’s best!

4/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: Southpaw

Jake Gyllenhaal in the ring in Antoine Fuqua's "Southpaw"

Jake Gyllenhaal in the ring in Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw”

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the most ambitious performance of his career as Billy “The Great” Hope in Southpaw, the latest from Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer). He’s a light heavyweight boxer fighting for his life as he tries to get custody of his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) after his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) accidentally gets shot after giving a speech at a charity event. Not only did he change physically but also emotionally. He loses everything: his house, his daughter, and his fame. He turns to see a boxing trainer (Forest Whitaker) to earn a job at a boxing gym. They have great chemistry together. Even though it does riddle with cliches and it can drag at times, the boxing scenes are well done and the drama is existent. It’s not up there with Rocky, Raging Bull, or Million Dollar Baby.

3/4