Movies

Joker Movie Review

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When Todd Phillips first pitched the Joker film to the Warner Brothers executives, he knew he was pushing the envelope. He was not pitching the standard superhero movie with big budget action scenes, A-list mega-stars or even an established franchise behind it. There would be no green screens, not city-crushing final battle and the good guys would not come through in the end.  This is our version of a Joker movie review.

image credit: AntMan3001 // CC BY-SA 2.0 | Joaquin Phoenix brings a unique take to Gotham’s biggest super-villain.

For although Joker is part of the DC comics universe, it is a far cry from the usual blockbuster comic-book fayre. What Phillips was pitching was something altogether darker; a bleak character study of how Joker came to be. A stand-alone movie that he felt could be the start of a whole new Warner Bros strand: DC Black.

The fact that his pitch succeeded will have been partly down to a leap of faith by the executives, partly down to Phillip’s absolute belief in the material and partly down to the fact that he was only asking for a $55m budget; a fraction of the usual bill for a superhero movie. With Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame costing a reported $356m to make, and DC’s own, disappointing, Suicide Squad costing $175m, it must have seemed a small price to pay for such an interesting idea. Following a record-breaking opening weekend of $96m in the USA and $248m worldwide, that faith would seem to have been repaid in spades.

From the beginning

Where Joker succeeds is in the detail of the origin story. This is as much a film about the life of Arthur Fleck as it is about Batman’s famous nemesis, if not more. Far from a single inciting incident, such as a convenient bite from a radioactive spider, or a plunge into a bath of acid, in this film, Joker’s creation is explored in far greater depth. His appalling treatment by the establishment, the medical community and society in general makes you root for him for far longer than perhaps you should. You are on his side because you understand what drove him there, and just like with Michael Douglas in Falling Down, you can’t help but wonder if you wouldn’t do exactly the same in similar circumstances.

All Fleck wants to do is make people happy, just like his momma, played with deft subtlety by veteran TV and cinema actress, Frances Conroy, has brought him up to do. He takes work as a clown, waving a sign on the streets for a closing down sale. He entertains young patients in hospital. He amuses bored kids on the bus. In short, he seems like a nice guy who repeatedly fails to get the breaks he deserves, until he finally breaks in response.

Under the skin

image credits: Diana Ringo | Joaquin Phoenix before his dramatic weight loss

While this is far from a star vehicle, Joaquin Phoenix’s central character is the beating heart of the film. in an era where most comic book movie characters look like they could walk into the team of any of this year’s Super Bowl contenders, he is strikingly gaunt, having reportedly lost 53lbs for the role to give his character a vulnerable edge. But this performance is more than just physical; from the retching laugh that Fleck can’t control to the hypnotic interpretive dance moves he twists his torso through in his private moments, this is full body-and-soul acting of the very highest caliber. It is almost guaranteed that Phoenix will add to his existing three Oscar nominations, and fourth time may just be lucky for one his generation’s best actors.

Apparently, Phoenix and director Phillips worked so closely to develop the character that they would often text each other late into the night after each day of shooting before finally calling up to talk lines, scenes and movements. This would leave them just three or four hours sleep before they got up to do it all again. Yet the rewards for this intensity are clear to see. Phoenix says that they were still discovering things about the character right up until the final day of shooting, which marks a welcome change from the multitude of two dimensional caricatures that modern cinema so often serves us.

A controversial release?

Joker received an extended standing ovation when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and went on to collect its top prize, the Golden Lion. Yet it has split critics and the media right down the middle, with some calling it a work of genius, while others think it is exploitative and possibly even dangerous. Such is our sympathy with Joker, that many people have voiced concerns about copycat crimes or claim that the movie promotes civil unrest. This is, of course, complete nonsense. Joker no more promotes the overthrow of the rich than Bambi promotes deer hunting. Audiences are smart enough to tune in to these ideas and discuss them with their friends late into the night, but they are also smart enough to separate fact from fiction, even when that fiction is portrayed so convincingly.

A welcome change

dbreen / Pixabay

After a summer of blockbusters, including the superhero movie to top them all, it is a welcome relief to be served something with a little more depth and character like this. Yes, Joker has its violence, but only where it is needed by the plot, and this scarcity of use means it has all the more impact when it does come. Joker is not morally cut and dry, and will leave you with many more questions than it answers, but at the end of the day, it is an origin story for a super-villain, so your loyalties were always going to be divided.

Joker has much to say about our uneven society, mental health, bullying and lack of care, and the tragic consequences that all of these can lead to, yet it never feels like a morality tale. It may be set in 1981, but it is just as relevant to today, and where you stand on each of these issues is left up to you. Only you can decide if Jokers actions are ultimately justified.

What is justified, without a doubt, is the admission price. As audiences across the globe are proving, Joaquin’s Joker is worth whatever your ticket costs, and is a tremendous return on Warner Bros’ $55 million dollar investment. Which could mean the dawn of a new dark-age from DC Black. Watch this space.

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Images provided by Flickr, Unsplash, Pexels & Pixabay

Why Beyoncé’s Homecoming is a Masterclass on Excellence

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When Beyoncé hit the Coachella stage last year, many of us expected amazing live vocals, her iconic hits, and memorable choreography. Instead, when she hit the stage, the audience at Coachella and those watching online were left in awe when Beyoncé delivered more than just a regular performance. In a 105-minute set, Beyoncé presented a statement on Black culture and history. No one could’ve guessed one of the many songs she performed would be The Black National Anthem. No one expected Beyonce to have a full marching band (from Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to help lead her performance. And of course, no one expected a Destiny’s Child reunion.

Beyoncé’s Coachella performance was not only celebrated because of her amazing talent, but because it was a tribute to Black American culture. In the film, Beyoncé said she “wanted every person that has ever been dismissed because of the way they look to feel like they were on that stage.” And that night, she did just that.

A year later, Netflix set the internet on fire when they released the trailer for Homecoming. The trailer included a voiceover from Maya Angelou discussing the honor of representing her race through her art. Though Homecoming included the entire Coachella performance, there were interviews and rehearsal footage of Beyoncé sprinkled throughout. Those clips detail Beyoncé’s extensive eight-month rehearsal for the performance plus her journey post pregnancy. The excellence in Homecoming is not just the actual performance, but being able to witness what it takes to be the undisputed greatest performer of our generation.

In the film, not only do we hear Beyoncé struggle with her ridiculously strict diet post giving birth, but we witness her calling all the shots from the shape of the stage, the lights, and costumes, all the way down to the camera shots. We see Beyoncé hold meetings with her team demanding them to do better and then leave to take care of her two infant children. We hear Beyoncé, who we have crowned the Queen, doubt her performance abilities after giving birth to twins. Homecoming is a masterclass on excellence because Beyoncé never makes excuses nor does she slack off. She gathers her crew, has three sound stages and rehearses for eight months straight. Homecoming shows that the brilliance of Beyoncé does not come from magic, but from determination. Seeing the blood, sweat, and tears she puts into her performances and seeing her leave her heart out on that Coachella stage, reinforced the truth that Beyoncé has no equals.

It’s impossible to watch Beyoncé at her peak and not be inspired. However, the beauty of it is Beyoncé doesn’t make you want to be her, she inspires you to be the best version of yourself. She inspires women who watch her, to be excellent at whatever it is they do. Beyoncé shows women that there are no limits to the greatness within us.

 

 

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Why Beyoncé’s Homecoming is a Masterclass on Excellence: Featured Image: @Beyonce on Instagram 

Us Review

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Jordan Peele has done it again with Us! This is a horror film that leaves you wanting more from beginning to end. The music in it has a lot of throwbacks like NWA to even the Beach Boys.

 

When the movie first start out, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is a little girl vacationing with her parents on the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Wandering away from her parents, she decides to go into the hall of mirrors, where she comes face to face with something in the reflection that is not normal. Cutting to her adult life, Adelaide is married to Gabe (Winston Duke) and has two kids Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The family decides to vacation at her parents old house and visit Santa Cruz Boardwalk. From the beginning of the vacation, Adelaide is skeptical about going back to the place she was terrified as a kid. Pause, let’s just talk about Winston Duke’s character, Gabe, who will make you laugh throughout the movie when serious moments approach. Back to the movie, as Adelaide, Gabe, and the kids try to enjoy their vacation, a family approach their house. The family who is in their driveway is a version of themselves who isn’t happy that they are living this picture perfect life and decide they want to take back everything that is theirs. Pay close attention to everything that Adelaide’s shadow tells the family because it makes sense later. The kids also play a big role in this movie when it comes to fighting back and knowing how to manipulate themselves.

 

There are a lot of twists and turns in the movie, especially when the audience thinks the family are just fighting themselves but there are also other people being killed. At the end, you begin to see the plan of this attack from the beginning to end as Adelaide’s evil self explains how she planned everything since the hall of mirrors. Also, wanted to highlight Lupita Nyong’o performance because it was phenomenal from the beginning to the end all while handcuffed. I would love to see Lupita in more horror movies in the future. And there is definitely a twist to her character at the end that makes you want to know more.

 

Us will have you holding your jacket over your face because of what happens next in every scene. You have to pay close attention to the movie because if you miss anything, you can get a little confused. Jordan Peele is definitely on to something big with the movies he has written, produced, and directed. I’m excited to see what movie he comes up with next. So, go watch Us, especially if you enjoy a good horror film.

 

 

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Us Review. Featured Image Credit: Universal Pictures 

What Men Want Review

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What Men Want is far from What Women Want in the best way. Taraji P. Henson gives an fantastic performance that shows her creative and fun side in a new way. What Men Want is hilarious, inspiring, and must-watch for women everywhere.

 

Taraji P. Henson’s character Ali Davis is an successful sports agent who wants to make partner at the all-boys sports company. After learning from her boss that she doesn’t relate to men and needs to stay in her lane, Davis is determined to land the newest sports star. When visiting a psychic played by Erykah Badu at her friend bachelorette party, Ali comes across physic abilities which makes her read men’s thoughts.

 

Tracy Morgan and Taraji P. Henson shared a lot of laughs on screen as this duo are willing to do whatever is best for their star basketball player. Tracy Morgan plays Joe “Dollar” Barry, father to the superstar basketball player Jamal Barry. Brandon Wallace, played by Josh Brender, steals the show as Ali’s personal assistant wanting to become a sports agent someday. He never backs down and makes sure Ali is mutual about her decisions when it comes to reading men minds.

 

There is a bit of romance in Ali’s world, especially after Will, a bartender played by Aldis Hodge, and his son becomes a part of Ali’s untruthful lie in order to impress the Barry family by showing she is a family women. At the end, Ali Davis realizes that she has to accept herself and learn to think what she wants instead of what men want.

 

What Men Want is a perfect movie for you and your girlfriends to watch. It explores the side of what men think but also shows that women don’t need approve from a man to succeed. If you want a good laugh and great time at the movies, then check out What Men Want.

 

 

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What Men Want Review. Featured Image Credit: Will Packer Productions 

 

The Upside Review

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The Upside was heart-warming, funny, and uplifting, getting 2019 off to a great start for movies. Kevin Hart delivers a performance that definitely showcases his more vulnerable side like never before. He had natural chemistry with Bryan Cranston, which helped bring the movie to life.

A remake of the 2011 French comedy The Intouchables, The Upside stars Hart as Dell, a ex-con looking for a job, who accidentally applies for a position as a caretaker of a physically disabled author named Phillip, played by Cranston. Phillip is a quadriplegic ready to die after a horrible accident in which his wife died. When Dell comes along, Phillip’s outlook on life begins to change, making him feel like living again.

Nicole Kidman played Yvonne, an overprotective business manager of Phillip who is very skeptical of Dell in the beginning. Eventually, she starts to see the friendship between Philip and Dell, making her realize that Dell being there brought Phillip back to his old self from before the accident.

I admired Hart and Cranston’s performances in the movie. It really came through that even though you are a quadriplegic, you can still live life to the fullest. Hart showed his sensitive side when it came to Dell re-connecting with his son, trying to help his ex, and beginning to realize that it is okay to helps others besides himself.

The Upside shares true life lessons and power of second chances, with a message that is truly inspiring. As usual Kevin Hart is funny, but he’s turning into a phenomenal actor. I recommend you go see it.

 

 

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The Upside Review. Featured Image Credit: STX Entertainment and Lantern Entertainment

Creed 2 Review

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*This review contains spoilers for the film*

 

Creed 2 stars Michael B Jordan as Adonis Creed, son of the great Apollo Creed. He faces his biggest challenge when facing off against Viktor Drago, son of the Russian boxer who killed his father. Creed 2 is a soaring, gripping, pulse-pounding, heartfelt triumph of a movie.

Michael B. Jordan gives an excellent performance from beginning to end with many emotional moments concerning family ties. In every scene, Jordan gave a passionate and heartfelt performance, and there were certainly tears in your eyes. The chemistry between him and Tessa Thompson was extraordinary on so many levels, especially when their little girl arrived. Yes, you heard correctly, a baby. What I enjoy most was seeing Creed’s vulnerable side more when becoming a father.

Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone, and Creed’s relationship is tested when Drago issues a challenge to Creed for his belt. Rocky tries to discourage the situation at hand but Creed feels up for the challenge, creating a divide in their relationship with each other. Rocky was concerned about Creed accepting the fight against Viktor Drago because of the history between their families, given the fact that his father died in a match with Viktor’s dad (as seen in the film Rocky IV). Viktor Drago hurts Creed really bad and was disqualified for hitting Creed after the referee yelled stopped in their first fight.

My favorite part of the movie was Creed’s intense training for his second fight with Drago while he figured out the reason he wanted to fight. Against all odds, Creed finally beats Drago in Russia and holds his boxing title.

What was different in this movie from the first Creed was seeing Rocky’s complicated relationship with his son (Milo Ventimiglia) play out this time around. He finally wants to make an effort to talk to his son but seemed to be afraid to make the first move. After many years of no contact with his son, Rocky reunites with his son and granddaughter which he has never seen. This movie gives a realistic meaning of family and learning who is in your corner through the tough times.

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Creed 2 Review: Featured Image Credit: MGM

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Is A Lifeless Film, Despite Shattering Box Office

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There’s no questioning—or denying—that when the newest film in the iconic Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, was released over the weekend, it already became a lifeless sequel for some movie fans. Especially to the critics. Hear this, even before that, once the news of a sequel to Jurassic World hit the internet, cinephiles couldn’t wait to sink their teeth into the trailer. But even still, the movie has been surging in the box office, after raking in around $150 million in its opening weekend. Unbelievable. For those of you still wondering, “Is it really worth my pennies to see this fifth installment of the franchise?” Let’s take a look.

 

First things first: As you probably recall, the posters for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom promised that “The Park Is Gone.” Perhaps that means only one thing—an end to fun. Really? I know, I’m disappointed too. As for the “Fallen Kingdom” part, don’t you find that to sound a little abstruse? I guess that makes sense, because sense is a thing this movie doesn’t have much interest in making. That’s for sure.  

So after the events of Jurassic World, we see Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) now working in dino-rights activism, and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) living a do-it-yourself life in the woods. That I can understand. But not the fact that they have to take an assignment from a billionaire to rescue Isla Nublar’s prehistoric population. This just leaves me perplexed. I’m sure it leaves others like that too.

But here’s the good news: The disaster grandeur dies down in the second half, the moment when the action shifts to a mansion compound, where Claire, Owen, Franklin (Justice Smith), and Blue the Raptor discover yet another explanation as to why people still think playing God could work out in the end. Like The Lost World, this movie makes tons of promises with little payoff.

If I had to give some sort of rating for this unprecedented success of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I would generously give the film a B+, because this film gives us no heroes worth rooting for. Maybe, if the legendary Steven Spielberg, directed this film, like the Jurassic Park in 1993, the rating would be that much higher. In this film, it offered us lazy re-creations, lazier screenwriting, and none of the action sequences sticked with us the way Spielberg’s did.

 

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Is A Lifeless Film, Despite Shattering Box Office. Featured Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Incredibles 2 Was Good, But It Wasn’t Incredible

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After 14 years of waiting, the most anticipated film of all time is finally out.  Incredibles 2 hit the theaters June 15th and grossed $180 million on opening weekend.

It was upsetting, yet predictable, that superheroes are still illegal in Incredibles 2, which leaves the Parr family living like refugees, held up and hiding in the Safari Court Motel.

But, there was an interesting twist on Incredibles 2, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight while Mr.Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is home playing Mr.Mom. Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), head of a telecommunications company, is a wealthy superhero fan who wants to help bring supers back. He asks Elastigirl to join him on his mission, enlisting her to partake in public acts of crime-fighting.  

Incredibles 2 had a bit of a different look graphic wise, versus the first movie. The first movie had a 1960’s feel to the graphics, while Incredibles 2 used  flesh stimulation technology. With the movies being 14 years apart, it’s a safe bet to say that technology has changed and improved over time. Although, it seemed like fans preferred the graphics from the first movie versus the second movie.

It was surprising that young baby Jack-Jack stole the show, especially during his scene with super-suit designer, Edna Mode (Brad Bird). It was fun to see Jack-Jack’s many rumored powers, come to life! Who would have ever thought that such a young baby would have so many incredible powers. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a spin off sequel that was based primarily around Jack-Jack.   

Although Incredibles 2 wasn’t all it was hyped up to be and disappointing to die hard Incredibles fans, the movie was filled with humor and fun. But it seemed to be missing the thrill and adventure that the first movie delivered. There was a lot to live up to, Incredibles was an amazing movie, easily a childhood favorite for many people. Incredibles 2 was good, but it wasn’t incredible.

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Incredibles 2 Was Good, But It Wasn’t Incredible: Feature image credit: Pixar

Hotel Artemis Review

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To start things off, I don’t necessarily hate or love Hotel Artemis. I’m okay with it. It’s a film you watch on a Friday night when you really have no other options at the movie theaters. The list of well known actors is enough to entice you to watch it. You have Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto and even Dave Bautista. The film had its quirky and good moments, but there were some major plot elements and structure issues that did not work well.

Not to mention that I got some serious John Wick vibes from the theme of the movie. If you have watched either installments of the John Wick franchise you know that Wick goes to a special hotel made discreetly for assassins, The Continental. It has the same idea as Hotel Artemis. Both hotels have a list of rules that must be followed, number one being that you cannot kill on hotel grounds. Whether these parallels are meant to happen, who knows.

Overall the film has some elements to it that didn’t work well. One of them being that the pacing of the storyline was taking too long to unfold. We don’t find out about the pen with a secret vault full of diamonds for a while into the film. On top of that, what we thought was going to be the major storyline for the film really isn’t and it’s disappointing. Instead, we get multiple little stories of each character that do not mesh well with one another and never fully develop. We have the two heist brothers who try to rekindle their bond, the small spark of love between a killer assassin and one of the heist brothers, an arms dealer who tries to prove himself, a wounded cop who is a face from the past, the mob king of L.A., and the nurse of the hotel who finds some peace in her son’s death. The main issue is a riot that happens in the streets of L.A. over clean water that causes the hotel some issues.

Individually the ideas for the characters were good, but they never developed into anything worthwhile for the film. The only person that you feel joy for is the nurse of the hotel, Jean Thomas (Foster) and Everest (Batista). She’s a woman in the right profession but in the wrong setting. Everest is the big scary guy who can pulverize you, but has a soft spot for the nurse and adds some comedy.

The cool aspect of the film is its near future vibe with high tech medical equipment. The ability to use nanomites and 3D print blood and tissue liver using your own DNA is pretty cool. Sofia Boutella was a serious badass in a red dress. The film gets a solid B+ rating in my book.

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Hotel Artemis Review. Featured Image credit: Global Road Entertainment

Avengers: Infinity War Review

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DISCLAIMER: Due to request from Infinity War directors, The Russo Brothers, and out of respect for the fans of the Marvel universe, this review will contain no spoilers.

Marvel Studios has been able to create a film that leaves you gobsmacked in your seat from beginning to end. There isn’t a moment in Avengers: Infinity War where your eyes do not widen and leave you gasping for breath. I do have to acknowledge that the film is everything we had hoped for from one of the most renowned cinematic companies in the world. But the film also leaves a lot to the imagination. Whether that is good or not is up for you to decide, especially if you are a diehard Marvel fan.

The evil villain of Thanos is perhaps one of the greatest antagonists I have seen on the Marvel screen. He makes you believe in his power and magnitude to a point you really start to worry for your beloved superheroes’ safety. So much so, you become convinced this is the end of all life as we know it. How can you not be afraid of a purple thumb-looking villain that holds the capability of destroying the universe with his fist the size of my torso?

Avengers: Infinity War brings together our beloved heroes for the biggest fight of the universe we’ve been waiting for. Traveling between different dimensions and galaxies will make fans clap their hands with glee while the nonstop heroism and fight sequences make you want to kick some serious ass. To top it off, the snarky bouts of comedy provides a good hearty laugh and comedic relief. Staring at a bearded Steve Rogers and the biceps of Thor isn’t so bad either!

Leaving the theatre I was happy, but not exactly satisfied. Since this review contains no spoilers, I will not explain why I felt this way. In an all honestly it is quite hard to understand how to feel about the film. Avengers: Infinity War is everything we could have possibly dreamed of, but leaves fans with more questions than answers. It makes you wonder what is to come. Fans of the Marvel Universe are not mentally prepared for what’s in store for them. Despite this, the film was worth the anticipation. All that’s left to wonder is, where do we go from here?

WAKANDA FOREVER!

Oh, and stay for the post credit scene: it will blow your mind.

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Avengers: Infinity War Review: Featured Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Rampage Review: The Rock Once Again Proves To Be The Most ‘Indestructible’ Movie Star

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Next time a city is about to get doomed to destruction and all hell breaks loose, you know the first person to call: Dwayne Johnson, who is capable of stopping anything that comes in his path, including taking on three angry overgrown varmints from wrecking Chicago. If you ask me, it sure sounds like a dumb and stupid movie that is not worth spending your quarters on. Unless, of course, young women want to see one of the “Sexiest Man Alive” carrying the whole thing on his charm.

To be honest, I had no clue that Rampage was based on a video game until I saw a giant flying wolf eating Burke, played by Joe Manganiello. It reminded me of Johnson’s last movie, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, where four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game. However, Rampage is a film that is so far-off from anything that we have seen Johnson star in.

In Rampage, players controlled one of three monsters — a wolf, a lizard, or a gorilla — and tried to destroy cities before the military could shoot them down and turn them back into humans. What was the kick from this movie? I guess, simply seeing gorillas punching buildings. Could it be any sillier than that? Actually, yes. And that is not a good thing.

But the craziest and dumbfounding thing I witnessed in this unforeseen film was wondering how did Davis Okoye (Johnson) not only survive a gunshot wound to the stomach but then go on to pilot a helicopter, run through the streets of Chicago, help battle a mutated crocodile named Lizzie, and be your standard All-American hero. Maybe “The Rock” is just invincible, unbroken, and immune. Or maybe, he’s just a god, which sounds foolish to say, but you never know.

This is just a movie, where a lot of rescue workers evacuating a smoldering downtown Chicago are chased by a giant ape doing the universal hand gesture for sex. So what holds this movie together? Just barely, it’s Johnson. Let’s all thank him for making this movie somewhat appealing to some moviegoers. But is it even worth ranking this movie that literally collapsed a skyscraper? I mean seriously, what was so great about this movie? Besides seeing Johnson taking down enormous monsters and being the hero as always.

Anyways, if I had to give some sort of rating for this film, I would generously give it a B, and that’s largely in part, because of Dwayne Johnson.

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Rampage Review: The Rock Once Again Proves To Be The Most ‘Indestructible’ Movie Star. Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Black Panther Review: A Much Needed Change for Superhero Movie

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Director Ryan Coogler made his own uniquely individualistic twist of a Marvel movie and it is nothing short of amazing and revolutionary. From the complex setting, characters, music, and the fashion, watching this film I felt a full immersion of how special and important the insanely advanced nation of Wakanda truly is and it’s fleshed out culture.  

Wakanda feels more like a character than a setting. There are traditions and distinct tribes that highlight the different aspects of this technological beauty of a nation. The king of Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), has to not only be the deciding factor in which direction to take his nation, but also protect and defend it with the mantle of Black Panther. The film focuses on T’Challa’s duality as king and warrior of a secretive nation and the effects an extremely vindictive outsider can have due to a severe mistake by T’Challa’ father.

Each actor puts such a high level of care, complexity, and development into their character. While the film does not mainly focus on T’Challa as a character so much as its side characters, Boseman’s T’Challa has a dynamic perspective of how his nation should be led. He struggles to choose a side with his nation’s internal conflict of tradition vs. innovation. He also struggles to follow in his father’s footsteps as a king while making his own mark as well. The women in this film are integral to the film’s plot and are never brushed to the side. T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is such a refreshing take on the role of the younger teenage sister. Wright’s portrayal is caring, innovative, comedic, and confident. Her character helps create most of the country’s technology, and never takes a back seat in this film. Wright knows when to time each joke effectively and knows how to show true emotion when a scene demands it. She takes part in action sequences and is never told to let the adults handle things.

Okoye (Danai Gurira) is a loyal, determined, compassionate, and bold warrior, and is head of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s elite all-female bodyguards/special forces. Gurira’s performance is unique. She leads in her action sequences and highlights the struggles she goes through when she wants to care for her loved ones but has to stay committed to her position. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend, but is never portrayed as the damsel. She is actually a Wakandian spy that knows how to be both brutal in her fighting technique and considerate when it comes for the love of country and T’Challa. Nyong’o reflects her character’s desires for her country and shows how she’d rather have her country strive for change rather than tradition.

Forest Whitaker as Wakandan shaman Zuri and Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Queen Mother of Wakanda and mother to T’Challa and Shuri, both shine brightly in the moments when they have to support T’Challa with his vital decisions as king. And while Martin Freeman’s Agent Everett Ross and Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue were wonderful additions as side characters, the film’s most significant character aside from T’Challa was the American outsider known as Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Jordan’s performance was the most fascinating and heartfelt villain Marvel has seen since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Jordan’s portrayal as Killmonger made me feel such a great level of sympathy for the character and how he feels he was wronged by Wakanda in a way. A film’s hero is only as good as it’s villain and Jordan knocks it out of the park in this film. The best villains also make you understand their perspectives and motivations and Jordan presents a villain where you can somewhat see the reasoning behind his perspective and motivation due to the cards he’s been dealt in life.

The film’s music composed by Ludwig Goransson is deeply-rooted in a type of African percussion and choral sounds and is highlights the character’s personalities and their specific culture. The album for this film has a mix of R&B and hip-hop stars such as Kendrick Lamar. Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, SZA, Khalid, and many more. This album gives off a tone of revolution in this film.

The costume designer Ruth E. Carter displays distinct tones and styles for each character’s personality and reflects Wakanda’s hybrid culture of tradition and innovation especially with the uniforms worn by the Dora Milaje.

Director Ryan Coogler has constructed a film that feels both separate yet connected to the rest of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Coogler’s tone mixes mostly with the theme of tradition vs. innovation and develops each character to see how they alter their perspectives of the world.

The film does have some flaws such as pacing and special effects but they don’t diminish the successful aspects of the film. The pacing sometimes unevenly alternates from one action sequence to a more character driven scene. And some of the special effects of the film such as the CGI felt a little cartoon-ish rather than completely realistic.Lastly, I felt that there needed to be slightly more development with T’Challa in some scenes.

Overall, the film proves how superhero films can be fresh, vibrant, and truly unconventional. They don’t always have to set up another film or stick to a type of formula. This film strays away from the formulated plot that these Marvel movies are known for by having its own original tone, distinct personalities in its characters, questionably agreeable motivations from its villain, and a great moral to the entire story.  Coogler provided a film that should be common in the film industry but sadly is rarely seen and hopefully, this film helps usher in more stories that reflect the world today. I give Black Panther an A-.

 

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Black Panther Review: A Much Needed Change for Superhero Movie. Featured Image Credit: Marvel Studios Facebook