Review: ‘Black Panther’ (Weekend in Wakanda)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe expands again… and everyone benefits.

Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his African home country of Wakanda to be officially crowned king after the death of his father, T’Chaka (John Kani). All countries on Earth believe Wakanda to be a poor third-world country, but it secretly hides the most advanced technological society on the planet — a secret it guards jealously to prevent its technology and weaponry from falling into the wrong hands. Arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) once stole a small cache of Vibranium from the Wakandans and has been their number-one enemy ever since, but when a chance to capture the villain fulfilling a bargain with CIA operative Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) goes south, the opportunity to challenge the monarchy of Wakanda also presents itself… as well as calling into question a policy of leaving the rest of the world to destroy itself.

With Hollywood under fire recently for “white washing” casts of Asian films with non-Asian actors, it’s telling that a line like “two billion other people who look like us” is included in the script for Black Panther, a predominately black cast not portrayed as poor or destitute but advanced, enlightened, and forward-thinking. It calls into question everything you think you know: what if the real superpower in the world isn’t who you think it is, and they’re smart enough to let others go right on believing they hold all the cards? Call it Atlantis or El Dorado, but as the world shrinks and outside technology catches up, does it make sense to stay hidden when we all could work together and everyone’s benefit? Finally, can Marvel’s moviemaking machine expand its action superhero franchise while simultaneously inspiring a message of hope for audiences all over the world?
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The 90th Academy Awards: Nominations

Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Honoring movies released in 2017
Host: Jimmy Kimmel


TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET — Call Me by Your Name
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS — Phantom Thread
GARY OLDMAN — Darkest Hour
DENZEL WASHINGTON — Roman J. Israel, Esq.


WILLEM DAFOE — The Florida Project
WOODY HARRELSON — Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
RICHARD JENKINS — The Shape of Water
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER — All the Money in the World
SAM ROCKWELL — Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
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Merry Christmas 2017!

A Christmas star, our Diehard diorama, and a sneak peak of 2018.

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Spoiler-Free Review: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ (The Status Is Not Quo)

Luke’s right: this isn’t going to go the way you think, and that’s a good thing.

Picking up after The Force Awakens, General Leia (Carrie Fisher) is on the run with the Resistance after the super-weapon sneak attack by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). While the First Order base was destroyed, it happened too late to prevent a shift in the balance of power. Leadership will be tested on both sides of the struggle, from the highest commander to the lowest mechanic. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally hands the galaxy’s most infamous light saber over to the island-bound Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in hopes of getting help for the Resistance and answers about the Force, specifically Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). But what’s with all the doe-eyed bleating penguin birds? Also: lots of things blow up.

Fans on social media are threatening any who reveal the hyperspace secrets of this new Star Wars film, and while that’s a bit extreme, it calls attention to the masses new and old who love this fantasy space opera conceived by George Lucas. Now firmly entrenched at the House of Mouse next to Marvel Ent. and the recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the latest film has last year’s Rogue One to live up to. Has the success and sacrifice of that film influenced Episode XIII in all the best ways that matter, or will this be a step down onto a backwater junk planet to live out the rest of our days scraping by?
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Review: ‘Justice League’ (flawed escapism is served)

Passable — that’s all you really wanted to know, right?

As the fifth movie considered part of the DC Cinematic Murderverse following Man of Steel, When Batman Met Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman, the Justice League at last arrives, unites, and… justices! In a world without an Emo-Man (Henry Cavill), Batfleck (Ben Affleck) risks his Fortune 500 status and his secret identity to recruit warriors for battle with help from WonderGal (Gal Gadot). His dossier includes AquaDrogo (Jason Momoa), String-Art Flash (Ezra Miller), and Phantom of the Iron Man (Ray Fisher). Together they must band together against super-henchman “born to be wild” Steppenwolf — looking like the little brother of Surtur the fire demon while sounding like Liam Neeson — and an army of retrofitted dragonfly-winged Chitauri that survived the Battle for New York in Marvel’s The Avengers. Can DC cut straight to a group film, introduce three new characters with abbreviated origin stories, and still make up for that BvS monstrosity mashup?

It’s no secret DC aka Warner Bros. has been gunning for the Marvel aka Disney’s multi-phase success-story film franchise — not because they want to torpedo it but because they want to make those kinds of bucks, too. While the MCU took a cautious approach starting with Iron Man and building to The Avengers, DC couldn’t wait and rushed head-on into throwing everything at the wall looking for stick-ons. Anyone watching box office numbers and social media the last few years knows it’s been a mixed bag trying to please the DC fanbase and produce must-see tent pole flicks that casual fans will flock to. Under pressure to repeat the surprise hit of Wonder Woman earlier this year and doing damage control over Dawn of Justice’s complaints and missteps — never mind switching directors from Zack Snyder to Joss Whedon — can anything hitting the big screen achieve all of these goals? The last time anything like this was tried, Superman Returns was the result…
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Review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (life not important — only comedy)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe dips a hilarity-ensued toe into the DC Cinematic Murderverse.

After another round of keeping the Marvel universe safe, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard to unmask Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the guise of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After getting directions from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the step-brothers learn too late that Odin’s waning power has released Hela (Cate Blanchett) from her exile and unleashed her revenge upon Asgard itself. A clumsy attempt to stop her ascension results in Thor being pushed out of the Bifrost and crash-landing on the planet Sakaar, where he is promptly captured by a local “recruiter” (Tessa Thompson) and delivered to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to fight in gladiatorial games for amusement. With only Heimdall (Idris Elba) standing between Hela and the complete destruction of Asgard, can Thor fight his way past Sakaar’s current champion Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to save his homeland, his people, and himself?

From What We Do in the Shadows actor/director Taika Waititi, the trailers for Thor 3 promises the fun of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and no shortage of epic comic book battles. While the 70s rock soundtrack selections highlights Jack Kirby-influenced imagery — Blanchete’s Hela looks nothing short of incredible — it seems there’s an awful lot of end-of-days destruction going on in these ads to be the rip-roaring comedy adventure they hint at. Should Ragnarök, the Viking apocalypse of legend and “The Doom of the Gods,” be a vehicle for comedy?
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Review: ‘Happy Death Day’ (it’s your birthday)

A potential ripoff crafted into homage horror.

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a distracted college cliché going through the motions, waking up in the dorm room of nice-enough guy Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) with no memory of how she ended up there. With a telling look hinting this isn’t her post-party black out, Tree makes her way back to her sorority house, a stronghold of superficiality endured long enough to change clothes, show up late for class, and attempting to get some snogging in on one of her married professors before getting back to another night of campus partying… until she’s murdered by a baby-face-masked killer. Tree instantly awakens to find herself back in nice-guy’s dorm room — on the same day. No, it wasn’t a dream… but is there any escape?

The idea of living one day over and over isn’t new; the filmmakers were smart enough not to even try to disguise the main inspiration: Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, this is a horror film about a young woman being murdered repeatedly, essentially being terrorized for the benefit of the viewers. As a perfect vehicle for a Halloween movie, it also runs the gambit of celebrating violence toward women, a hot-button topic these days even when showcasing female empowerment to overcome victimization. Can a reworked Bill Murray vehicle featuring a lady lead manage to entertain while avoiding gratuitous exploitation and a traditional downer ending while still becoming a satisfying October slasher?
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