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Critics fall for Wakanda and the entire ‘Black Panther’ cast

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There’s a new king in town and his name is T’Challa. Marvel’s Black Panther won’t open in theaters for another two weeks, but the reviews are in.

As Mashable’s Angie Han wrote, this feels like more than a regular movie, whether because of widespread love for the character or audiences’ craving for nonwhite representation on screen.

A few years ago – and even now – this would have been any easy job to botch, but director Ryan Coogler and his formidable cast delivered.

As of this writing, Black Panther is currently rocking a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with 48 reviews.

For more on what critics thought of Black Panther (spoiler-free), read on.

The women of Wakanda (especially Shuri) rule

Kendra James, Shondaland:

Having three women working together without conflict (and all dark skinned with nary a loose curl or straight hair in sight) in a blockbuster film is still a novelty in 2018. Coogler forces his audience to, for the first time in the MCU, acknowledge the power of Black women. There is Nakia (Nyong’o), a spy who considers it her mission in life to surreptitiously help the disenfranchised on the continent. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Wright), is a teenage genius who leads the country’s scientific endeavors. She’s also Marvel’s first true style icon, and should have an Ivy Park line created in her honor immediately. As General Okoye, Gurira is the actual personification of #Goals; a woman who stands firm in her beliefs, is a primary adviser to the king and his mother (Angela Bassett), and who could definitely take out Black Widow even on her worst day.

Joelle Monique, Polygon:

Shuri is a revelation. Wright steals every scene with her bright smile and perfect comedic timing. From a brazen middle finger to a sense of fashion and confidence in the face of imminent danger, Shuri is an inspiration for all. I cannot fully express the joy of seeing a smart, carefree, nonsexualized young black woman on the big screen…There isn’t a Black Widow sex symbol here, or a Pepper Potts standing in the wings. The women of Black Panther are vital to Wakanda’s success.

Jamie Broadnax, Black Girl Nerds:

She steals damn near every scene in the film, and I’m 110% confident that audiences will walk away talking about Shuri long after the film ends. I’m also confident that Wright would be able to hold a Shuri Black Panther solo movie on her own.  Let’s remember that in comic book canon (during the Reginald Hudlin run), Shuri takes on the Black Panther mantle and becomes ruler of Wakanda. It would only make sense to bring in a Shuri movie at this point. I also would like to add that the focus on her being the smartest person in the universe is strong here, and many characters in the Marvel universe—including Tony Stark himself—have a lot to learn from Shuri’s technology and skills.

A milestone for representation

Joelle Monique, Polygon:

In showing the legacy of Wakanda, which is filled with wealth and knowledge, and juxtaposing it with the hardships that black youths faced in Oakland, Coogler establishes a conversation around the dichotomy of being African-American versus African…Black Panther seeks to find a middle ground between these two worlds: a world where black Americans aren’t left out of the cultural celebration of their West African roots, and where greedy people don’t have an opportunity to consume Wakanda. By focusing on the citizens of Wakanda and their disagreements on how to manage the country’s future, Coogler creates a sense of harmonic anarchy.

Jamie Broadnax, Black Girl Nerds:

it’s afro-futuristic and Blackity-black as hell.  It’s everything I’ve ever desired in a live-action version of this popular superhero and yet so much more. Quite frankly, the experience is indescribable. I left the theater wanting to see this movie at least 10 more times. I already know that Black Panther‘s weight in gold at the box office will be in repeat viewings, because we just won’t want this cinematic experience to end.

Marc Bernardin, Nerdist:

The film does deal head-on with issues of race, subjugation, and oppression in ways both heartbreaking and hilarious. At one point, a young black boy in a rundown apartment in Oakland, California (Coogler’s hometown), dismisses the idea of Wakanda itself: What good is “a kid in Oakland, running around believing in fairy tales”? Coogler answers that question with the film itself: Here is a fairy tale for children who rarely get them, and never like this. What’s more, the final coda is as direct an address to the xenophobia at home in our current administration as that which you’ll find in any film this year, let alone a giant Marvel movie.

Kendra James, Shondaland:

The 31-year-old director has just three feature films under his belt — “Fruitvale Station” (2013), “Creed” (2015), and “Black Panther”— but these three films (which all feature astounding performances by Jordan) share a similar point of view: that the black experience is nuanced and it is varied. We are parents. We span socio-economic statuses. We live with disabilities. We might live delightfully ordinary lives, or we might be superheroes. But no matter where we fall in life, we’re still affected by the lasting (and ongoing) effects that whiteness has had on black people everywhere.
It’s imperative to understand the point of view Coogler brings to “Black Panther,” as it is the scaffolding T’Challa (the Black Panther’s secret identity, played by Boseman) and the rest of Wakanda stand on.

Magical world building

Joelle Monique, Polygon:

With everyone lined up, it’s easy to see that Ruth E. Carter deserves an Oscar for her costume design. Her use of colors is masterful; the palette is distinctly African, and so striking as to make me long for the days of Technicolor.
Wakanda is the African dream. Unsullied by colonization, it is the most technically advanced civilization in the world. It looks like the most technically advanced place in the world, too.
All of Wakanda is constructed in harmony with the natural features of the land. Production designer Hannah Beachler has created some of the most unique sci-fi spaces in recent memory.

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times:

Buoyed by its groovy women and Afrofuturist flourishes, Wakanda itself is finally the movie’s strength, its rallying cry and state of mind. Early on, a white character carelessly describes it as “a third world country — textiles, shepherds, cool outfits.” Part of the joke, which the movie wittily engages, is that Wakanda certainly fits that profile except that its shepherds patrol the border with techno-wizardry, and its textiles and costumes dazzle because of the country’s secret vibranium sauce. More critically, having never been conquered, Wakanda has evaded the historical traumas endured by much of the rest of Africa, freeing it from the ravages of both colonialism and postcolonialism.

Marc Bernardin, Nerdist:

It’s as if everyone enlisted to bring the project to life understood the magnitude of what Black Panther, the first comic-based studio movie with a black hero at the center since 1998’s Blade, would represent. The chance to fill every corner of their fictional Wakanda with the same level of craft and detail usually reserved for British-star-studded period pieces. An opportunity to tell a story about black lives, which matter and are not defined by their pain but, instead, by their glory. An answer to a culture’s question, “When will it be our time in the sun?”

Kendra James, Shondaland:

“Black Panther” is so masterfully shot that its many-hued black actors almost seem to glow. This is how you light melanin. With the help of costume designer Ruth Carter (who must certainly be in contention for an Oscar nomination in 2019 for her work here) and hair department head Camille Friend, director Ryan Coogler has created one of the most visually interesting displays of blackness on screen. “Black Panther” mixes several aesthetics from the African continent (influences came from the Masai, Suri, Ndebele, and Bosotho peoples, among others), and while some may consider it an imperfect display or too much of a melange, the wide-ranging display of black people is astounding.

Black Panther hits theaters nationwide Feb. 16.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/06/black-panther-review-roundup/

New Movie Reviews

Critics are not impressed with the tired jokes in ‘Holmes & Watson’

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The comedic duo’s third film falls short.

Image: sony pictures entertainment

“Remember when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly collectively made the world double over with laughter in 2008’s Step Brothers? Well hold on to that feeling, because it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen with Holmes & Watson.

Starring Ferrell and Reilly as the titular Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Holmes & Watson attempts the capture the comedic duo’s chops seen in Step Brothers and Talladega Nights in a new, historic setting. Unfortunately, that magic seems to have been lost along the way with jokes that don’t land and a backdrop that doesn’t allow for Ferrell and Reilly’s improvisation to take hold.

With 12 reviews in on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of reporting, Holmes & Watson is currently sitting at a 0 percent. That’s not a good look for writer and director Etan Cohen.

Here’s what the critics have to say about Ferrell and Reilly’s third movie together.

The setting isn’t right

Peter Debruge, Variety:

As far as Ferrell and Reilly are concerned, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s unstumpable sleuth and the thankless sidekick who recorded his every exploit are not just a great crime-solving duo but one of the great bromances of English literature — and therefore a natural target for the two actors’ ongoing exploration of dysfunctional friendships. The trouble is, Sherlock Holmes exists so large in audiences’ minds already that the pair’s uninspired take feels neither definitive nor especially fresh — just an off-brand, garden-variety parody.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club:

Written and directed by Etan Cohen (not to be mistaken for Ethan Coen, under any circumstances), Holmes & Watson imagines the title characters as a couple of needy, middle-aged manchildren—though the similarities with Ferrell and Reilly’s work together on Adam McKay’s Step Brothers end there. Struggling with objectively awful English accents, the two actors spend their time on screen dragging out terrible jokes, as though trapped in the improv-exercise equivalent of eternal damnation. Though it’s mostly the audience that suffers. Even the movie’s attempts at gross-out humor—such as an extended bit in which Holmes keeps barfing into a bucket, or a sequence where he calculates the trajectory of his arcing urine in slow-mo, à la Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes—are timorous and half-assed.

Almost all the jokes are bad

David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

Instead of picking a particular tone and wringing it for all it’s worth, Cohen just throws a mess of half-funny jokes at the wall in the hopes that some of them might stick. They don’t. Not enough of them, anyway. Mild gross-out humor (projectile vomit, cadavers baked into party cakes, etc.) is mashed together with poorly choreographed physical comedy (Holmes and Watson accidentally unleash a swarm of killer bees while trying to kill a single mosquito) and limp post-modern gags that poke fun at old technology (Watson telegrams someone a dick pic) or current events (a “Make England Great Again” hat precedes a conversation about how the Electoral College will always protect America from tyrannical grifters).

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter:

There’s at least one scene that proves mildly amusing, when Holmes silently communicates with his brother Mycroft (Hugh Laurie, who had the good sense to go uncredited) via their shared ability to “brainspeak.” It’s a slyly witty moment that contrasts with the otherwise lame slapstick permeating the frenetic proceedings. A gag involving the eating of raw onions isn’t so much running as limping. And there’s a strange amount of anachronistic Donald Trump-related humor, including bits about fake news and red MAGA hats (here reading “Make England Great Again”) that fall utterly flat in this context.

None of the actors shine

Sandy Schaefer, ScreenRant:

Holmes & Watson is missing a key ingredient from Talladega Nights and Step Brothers – namely, director Adam McKay. Where McKay knew how to create comedic scenarios that allowed Ferrell and Reilly room to improvise, Cohen’s approach seems far more dependent on scripted jokes. That wouldn’t actually be a problem if his film could settle on a clear throughline, like McKay’s movies with Ferrell and Reilly had. Instead, Cohen’s script recycles Ferrell’s character arc from his 2000s comedies (his Sherlock is an egomaniacal jerk who doesn’t appreciate Watson) and can’t decide if his comical take on the super-sleuth is dumber than he thinks or too smart for his own good. Reilly isn’t given much to work with here either, and is left trying to get additional mileage from listless scenes that subject Dr. Watson to all sorts of comedic torment (be it emotional neglect or mean-spirited slapstick).

David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

The cast is rounded out by an incredible array of actors and comedians, including Kelly Macdonald as Holmes’ secretary, Hugh Laurie as Holmes’ brother, Steve Coogan as a one-armed tattoo artist, Rob Brydon as a flabbergasted inspector, and someone who shows up for a last-minute cameo so good that it almost redeems the rest of the movie. Of course, none of these people are given anything to do — forget standing out, Laurie isn’t even on-screen long enough to stand up. Usually, you’d have to watch the Golden Globes to see this much wasted talent. As it stands, the only compelling mystery about “Holmes & Watson” is how so many funny people have been squeezed into such an unfunny movie, a movie that isn’t nearly smart enough to recognize how stupid it should have been.

It’s awful

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club:

One might call it a failure on almost every level—that is, if the movie ever gave the impression that it was trying to succeed. Instead, it’s pervaded by an air of extreme laziness. It’s cheap and tacky—a bizarrely dated parody of Ritchie’s Holmes (complete with a soundalike score) poisoned with rib-elbowing topical references and puerile gags. It’s the Sherlock Holmes movie with the red “Make England Great Again” hat and the lactating Watson. It succeeds in only one respect. As a Christmas Day release that wasn’t screened in advance for critics, it managed to avoid our list of the worst films of 2018. It belongs at the top.”

Holmes & Watson is in theaters now.

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‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is one of the best superhero movies ever: Review

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There’s a new Spider-Man in town, and he’s freaking amazing.

Image: Columbia / Sony

“To say that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels like a comic book come to life may sound like faint praise, seeing as we’re two decades into a superhero movie boom that the original Spider-Man helped jump start.

But few recent films have embraced the comic book style and sensibility — its visual quirks and anything-goes openness — as wholeheartedly as Spider-Verse has, or enjoyed as fully the potential in combining the two mediums.

Right off the bat, Spider-Verse acknowledges that it’s probably the 700th Spider-Man story you’ve seen in the past few years. A voiceover “yada yadas” the basics of Peter Parker’s origin story, while winking at almost every iteration of it; even the much-maligned Spider-Man 3 gets a rueful shoutout. This movie isn’t afraid of a laugh at its own expense, though the knowing humor is more affectionate than biting.

Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before.

When that montage ends with Peter telling us “there’s only one Spider-Man,” it plays like another joke, because we’ve seen so many Peters over so many years. And becomes even more of one once we meet Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore).

Though Miles has been a fan favorite in the comics since 2011, Spider-Verse marks his first time on the big screen. Accordingly, Spider-Verse has a distinct feel unlike any other Spider-Man movie before it.

Spider-Verse eschews both the slick three-dimensional look of most modern studio animated movies (think Pixar or Illumination) and the gritty “realism” of most live-action superhero movies, in favor of a flatter, sketchier aesthetic bursting with poppy colors, Ben-Day dots, and motion lines. It’s an obvious nod to Spidey’s ink-and-paper history, but it’s also an expression of how Miles, himself a character who’s grown up admiring Spidey and reading Spidey books, might view his own superhero saga…………………………………………”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-movie-review/

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Creed II review – Rocky saga continues with knockout sequel

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20

“Before he delivered arguably Marvel’s most dazzling chapter to date, Ryan Coogler had managed something close to impossible in Hollywood: he had found a fresh way to reboot a dusty franchise. In a landscape of endless thirst and vacant remixing, he had somehow managed to concoct a nifty, imaginative way back into the Rocky saga with Creed, a film that felt old-fashioned yet fresh, intimate yet grand, a rousing return from the grave.

By focusing on the son of Rocky’s competitor-turned-friend Apollo Creed, Coogler was also able to reteam with Michael B Jordan, who made such an indelible impression in his first film, 2013’s devastating fact-based drama Fruitvale Station. The duo worked together again in Black Panther earlier this year, with Jordan switching tacks to play villain Killmonger, and so soon after, seeing him return as Creed is a further reminder of his broad star appeal, the sort of rare leading man one can imagine remaining at the top of his game for years to come. Given his time in Wakanda, Coogler was unable to return but he has handed over directorial duties to Steven Caple Jr, who impressed in 2016 with debut feature The Land, and it is a similarly deft rise from micro-budget indie to franchise film-making.

While it’s not quite the showstopper that its predecessor was, Creed II is still another knockout piece of entertainment. There’s a keen awareness of what made Creed work so well without it feeling like a lethargic rehash. This time, Adonis (Jordan) is the heavyweight champion of the world, in a loving relationship with his pregnant musician girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and still living near and working out with a recovering Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). But there’s discontent from……………………………………..”

Read More Here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/16/creed-ii-review-rocky-sylvester-stallone-michael-b-jordan

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