Review: Black Panther

Avengers: Infinity War is right around the corner, but the MCU had one final stop to make first…

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As someone who has openly admitted that over the past few years I’ve become saturated by Superhero movies, I went into the latest installment of the MCU with tepid expectations. I can report, however, that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie.

Black Panther’s biggest strength comes from the fact that it doesn’t feel like all the other Marvel superhero movies. This would be important enough if it was just a run of the mill entry into the MCU, but because of the political importance behind this movie and its placement in the timeline (Being the final entry before the big mashup of Infinity War) it was critical that Black Panther felt fresh and reinvigorated any fans who might be waning on the franchise.

As previously mentioned, Black Panther holds a strong political message about race and equality. The whole film is built around this concept and I am far from qualified enough to talk about the connotations and emotion behind it all in detail. All you should know is that the message is organic for the story Marvel are trying to tell, but most of all it is impactful and well delivered.

The cast of Black Panther is phenomenal. Whilst I thought Chadwick Boseman’s King  T’Challa  was a weak character for the most part, his portrayal is still well delivered and the supporting cast is probably the strongest of any Marvel movie. With Letitia Wright’s Shuri and Danai Gurira’s  Okoye being particular standouts. The highlight of the movie however came in the form of Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. Killmonger is without doubt the best Marvel villain since Loki, and I would even go as far to say that he may be better, purely down the level of character development he is given and the realistic motivation behind his goals. Loki of course benefits from being featured as the main villain in multiple movies, but it will be interesting to see where the general audience start to rank the two when compared to each other. One thing is for sure is that Tom Hiddlestone has his work cut out for him if he wants to match the emotional weight that Michael B. Jordan delivers in his role.

The film isn’t perfect though. As previously mentioned, King  T’Challa is somewhat of a weak character until the latter stages of the film where he develops his own moral standing. There is also some moments of dodgy CGI, which are a shocking inclusion given the budget and hype behind Marvel movies nowadays. Furthermore, whilst Wakanda is solidly established ahead of its seemingly large role to play in Infinity War, I could have done with perhaps 5 to 10 more minutes developing what the actual city was like, rather than just the one or two remote locations we get to explore. Although this time would have had to have been knocked off from elsewhere as the film already stretches its run-time to the levels of just about being acceptable.

With that being said, Black Panther is certainly one of the strongest Marvel films. A strong cast, good direction, a good story and a well developed villain have all combined to create the kind of impactful film that the Marvel series has needed for a number of years now.

Consider me back on the bandwagon and bring on Infinity War.

Final Score: 8/10 Porgs.

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Review: Star Trek: Discovery Series 1

Star Trek Discovery, the most under-appreciated show on Netflix… in one nerd’s opinion anyway.

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When it comes to “Netflix Originals” I tend to find that they go one of two ways, either they are extremely good televsion or film productions (Usually the former), or they exist somewhere between poor and downright awful. Fortunately I can say with sincere confidence that Star Trek: Discovery’s first season is one of the better shows that Netflix has to offer.

First airing on CBS over in the US, before being made available the day after on Netflix, the latest take on the Star Trek franchise is an incredibly fun, compelling and emotional adventure that is worthy of the name.

What stands out about Discovery, is that it doesn’t feel like any other sci-fi show, it actually feels like a Star Trek series of old, except with a larger budget and better writers. Kicking the series off with an extremely tense and gripping opening episode, the show does a great job of having you hooked from kickoff. But what serves the series the best is perhaps the content which it adopts throughout the course of the series.

With there being 3 recent blockbuster sized Star Trek films in recent memory, the writers of Discovery did a good job in establishing this separate universe and timeline. By making the overarching story of Discovery being about a war against the Klingon’s (A key species in Star Trek lore, but one which was largely left out of the recent films), the show takes advantage of having an exciting core story which leads to various action set-pieces, whilst also being smart enough to write in various sub-arcs which all hit home.

The acting ranges from serviceable to pretty damn good in places. Doug Jones (Saru) and Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly) are particular stand outs throughout the season and offer up some of the more compelling characters. Fortunately, due to the scale of the season and not being limited to a 2 hour long film, most members of the USS Discovery do receive solid to substantial character development. However, there are a couple of recurring non-crew members who do lack the development of others.

All in all the first series of Star Trek: Discovery was a joy to watch, particularly the final handful of episodes which keep you clinging to your seat and make it very difficult to turn off the TV. There are twists and turns which keep the enjoyment and surprise high at all times, but more importantly they don’t feel like twists for the sake of them, everything seems to make sense for the Universe that has been established.

While there is no set date for the confirmed second series, Star Trek Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman told The Hollywood Reporter that “ideally” he wanted the show to be back on “the early side of 2019”.

Final Score:

8/10 Porgs.

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The Superbowl Roundup

The Superbowl happened! For most people it’s an event in the calendar that highlights the culmination of the American Football season. But for us nerds, it’s a time for some sick trailers.

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The Superbowl has come and gone, and whilst the result of the game itself was historic, what was perhaps as equally jaw-dropping was the quality of the trailers which we were treated to throughout the night.

There were too many to publish individual blog posts about every single one, so instead I’m going to make “The Superbowl Roundup” a yearly feature whereby I go through and highlight the best of the bunch, the trailers which stood out to me for one reason or another.

First up let’s talk about the trailer that everyone was looking forward to the most (Arguably as it’s not actually a full trailer): Solo: A Star Wars Story

Whilst this is one of the shortest trailer in our Roundup, it’s probably the one which has people talking the most. An excellent PR move on Disney’s side, as by publishing a short teaser at the “Big Game” (NBC property) they have effectively used another network’s most watched product to say “come and watch Good Morning America (ABC property) for the full thing”.

The teaser itself didn’t offer a great deal, as was to be expected from a trailer of this size. But what it did offer looked promising. The visuals were superb, in particular the shot of the Star Destroyer deploying tie fighters in what looks like the Kessel run.

Hopefully we get significantly more Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo) in the full trailer, as if the marketing tries to hide him as much as possible then there will be massive worries among the fan-base that LucasFilm don’t have faith in him as Han. Which given the rumours around a dialect coach on set, is the last thing he needs going into the movie’s release.

Next up, was another shorter trailer: Avengers: Infinity War

The trailer offered little in the way of new content, but given the hype around this movie anything new is worthy of note. Giving us a high quality shot of Captain America’s brand new Wakanda-style shield, as well as our first footage of Nebula in action, the trailer served its purpose to keep Infinity War fresh in everyone’s minds and to keep the hype machine ticking along nicely.

Our first full trailer for the Roundup comes from the sixth installment in the Mission Impossible franchise: Mission Impossible: Fallout

A surprisingly dark tone for the first trailer of the movie sets us up with the concept that Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt) is on the run (Again) and 1. Having to atone for all his actions in previous films (Hence the “clever” name Fallout) and 2. Is having to go up against friends of old and enemies of new in Rebecca Ferguson and Henry Cavill respectively.

Cavill’s character appears to work well as a counter-weight to Cruise’s character, but we’ll need to see more interaction between the two to confirm that. Whilst it’s evident that the chemistry between Ferguson and Cruise is carrying over well into this next film in the franchise.

The trope of Ethan Hunt being disavowed and turned on by his own Government is becoming stale now, so hopefully the movie approaches it in an entirely different way, otherwise this movie runs the risk of being all too familiar before people have even stepped foot into the cinema.

Our penultimate note for the roundup comes in the form of what was more than likely the most surprising trailer from the Big Game: The Cloverfield Paradox

Perhaps not noteworthy for the content of the trailer itself, or indeed for the hype preceding it, but instead for the context it lends to the modern era of film-making. As we reported at the end of January, the fourth Cloverfield film was being rumoured to land on Netflix outside of the US. Little did we know that the 3rd installment, creeping ever closer to what we believed to be the rough release date in cinemas, was in fact only a few hours away from being made available on Netflix.

With the trailer noting that not only was The Cloverfield Paradox going to be releasing on Netflix rather than in cinemas, but in fact it was releasing right after the Superbowl. A surprising move for the confusing sci-fi series, but a welcome one.

Regardless of what reviews the film gets (Early reviews aren’t looking great) it’s certainly a statement of intent by Netflix and you can almost guarantee than more and more movies will follow a similar format of release.

Lastly let’s take a look at my favourite trailer from the Superbowl: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I am a massive fan of the Jurassic Park/World franchise, always have been and likely always will be. But even I had to admit that the first trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom did absolutely nothing for me, in fact I actively disliked it.

Fortunately, this trailer has completely turned my hype train around and I am fully on board going forward. The darker tone, the emphasis on practical effects and sheer sense of fear and dread that is laced throughout the trailer was incredibly appealing to me.

It’s promising to see that the Island rescue portion of the movie may end up only being perhaps the first third or half of the movie, as to me that was what put me off trailer 1. A volcano makes for a very bad antagonist, but another hybrid that leans more towards the Raptor gene than the T-rex? Sign me up.

J.A Bayona’s directing appears to be leaps and bounds ahead of Colin Trevorrow’s from the first Jurassic World film (Sorry Colin), so it’s safe to say that my expectations for the movie have been suitably raised. Let’s just hope that the actual film can live up to this trailer and that the story is strong enough to warrant this new trilogy.

 

Retrospective Review: The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando and Al Pacino

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In a new series of articles we’ll be looking back over movies of the past and offering our thoughts in retrospect. And why not start off with a masterpiece?

Let’s not beat around the bush here, not just The Godfather, but the entire trilogy is a work of art when it comes to film making. I’m in the very small minority when it comes to my ordering of the series, in that I believe that the third is better than number two and that the original is the best. But that does not take away my belief that the series as a whole is one of the best trilogy’s ever made.

I had the pleasure of first watching The Godfather when I was about 12 years old with my mum, and I can distinctly remember completely forgetting that the people I was watching on screen weren’t real. That’s a serious testament to not just the performances of every single actor on screen, but also to Francis Ford Coppola’s fantastic directing. The narrative is beautifully woven to create an “epic” feel to the movie, as though we are watching a real family dynasty unfold before our eyes. Something that would not be possible without the highest quality directing, acting, composing and writing. As such it would be unfair to single any one aspect of this film and label it as the most important cog in well designed machine.

This was Al Pacino’s breakout role and my God what a film to be known for. His performance in this film is near perfect, his story arc is both believable but without sacrificing the edge of your seat nature that is so often captured perfectly by well fleshed out characters that you feel invested in. And for me it is that point which takes The Godfather beyond being a great film to a near perfect one. Every character is well thought out, they could very well be real people (As younger me believed) and you invest in their flaws and stories. Beyond that though, like only the best performances can, Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Don Vito Corleone has managed become film legend. If you haven’t imitated the line “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” then have you really been paying attention?

For a movie released in 1972 to still hold up to today’s standard of film making is a real achievement that shouldn’t be understated. You will still to this day struggle to find a more compelling tale of family, loss and struggle. Sure, some blood effects could be better by today’s standards, but as time moves on that’s something that has to be accepted as inevitable in an industry such as this.

I can’t say enough positive things about this movie. If you’re a film fan, then you need to see this film. If you’re studying film at University, then you need to see this film. If you have even a passing interest in Italian/American mafia, then you need to see this film.

Final Score:

10/10 Porgs.

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