Thoughts On the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Trailer

Death, as we all know, is a part of life. Some of us are fortunate to die in our sunset years, others leave this world far too soon.

When Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer in 2020, it was a loss that was palpable. He was a well-liked and respected actor with a bright future. After the dust settled, there were obvious questions about how the creative team behind the Black Panther film series would go on without its lead actor.

Earlier this week, we sort of got the answer. The trailer for the sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was released. As is normal for this stage of the game, the details are kept close to the vest. The only things we know so far is the future of Wakanda is in question and the loss of Boseman and his character, T’Challa is keenly felt.

I have a feeling that this film is going to pack an emotional punch and perhaps force fans to shed a few tears.

Am I looking forward to it? Without a doubt.

P.S. If I were a betting woman, I would put my money on Shuri (Letitia Wright) as the new Black Panther.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be in theaters in November.

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Movie Review

Grief and fear are two very potent emotions. They have the power to control our actions and if we give them power, our destiny.

The latest addition to the MCU universe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, uses grief and fear as the emotional base of the narrative. The sequel to Doctor Strange, the movie starts with the wedding of Doctor Steven Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) colleague and ex, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). The festivities seem to be going well until predictably, the city is attacked by a monster. Its target is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young lady with abilities to travel through the multiverse.

Together with his friend, Wong (Benedict Wong), he has to keep America safe from Scarlett Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). She wants to use the girl’s powers to get back to the fictional children she created within the world of WandaVision. Nothing and no one who will stop her from getting back to her boys. The only person who can save the world and the multiverse is Doctor Strange.

This movie is absolutely amazing. I would even go so far as to say that I would rank it in the top 5 of MCU movies. Making a sequel to one story is hard enough. Making two of them and marrying them into a larger tale is twice as hard. I loved the surprising horror elements, the underlying emotions that drove the characters, and the ending that is absolutely perfect.

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Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was top ten lists of movies come the end of the year.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is presently in theaters.

P.S. As usual, stay for the mid-credit scene. There are two of them, so I recommend staying until the very end.

Throwback Thursday: The Avengers (2012)

There is nothing like a superhero origin story. When done well, it opens the doors to limitless narrative possibilities.

Back in 2012, The Avengers hit theaters.

Following the events of Thor (2011), Earth is invaded by Thor‘s (Chris Hemsworth) adopted brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). His goal is to rule over humanity. Standing in his way is Thor, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clinton Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

The Avengers is so good. The actors are perfectly cast, the balance between the narrative and the action is perfect and it is just so much fun to watch.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Eternals Movie Review

*This review is strictly based on the movie as I have never read the comic books.

It would be easy to categorize a superhero movie based on a comic book as all action and no heart. But without that heart, it is nothing but a series of fights between the heroes and the villains.

The Eternals hit theaters a few weeks ago. This latest film adaptation from Marvel Comics tells the story of a group of otherwordly beings whose job it is to protect and nuture humanity. The big bad are deviants, creatures who are not selective about who and what they kill. After thousands of years, these alien superheroes have blended into the world around them, looking no different than you or I.

When their leader, Ajak (Salma Hayek) is killed by a deviant, Sersi (Gemma Chan) takes her place and does her best to bring the team back together. But when the secret about the true nature of their mission is revealed, it creates conflict between Sersi, Ikarus (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), and the rest of the Eternals.

The film clocks in about 2 1/2 hours. Thankfully, it does not feel that long. What I think makes it well done is that the narrative is not just about physical entaglments between the antagonists and the protaganists. There is heart, there is humor, and the message about what it is to be human is threaded throughout the story.

Much has been naturally made about the diversity of the cast. Personally, I think it’s a long time coming. Though I loved Avengers: Endgame, the reality is that the majority of the lead characters are white and male. One could argue that the one scene that all of the female superheroes come together is merely lip service instead of naturally giving these women the spotlight beyond the traditional female narratives.

Including an LGBTQ character, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), and a deaf character, Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), was a nice addition. It proved that this world can be open to a wider range of types of people, if only given the chance.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Eternals is presently in theaters.

Throwback Thursday: Ant-Man (2015)

A parent’s love for their child is a powerful thing. Sometimes, this leads to actions that might be considered odd or out of the box.

In the 2015 film, Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man with a past and a record. He is also a father who adores his daughter. Given a super suit that allow him to change his size, Scott joins his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to save the world against Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Joining Scott on his path to superhero-dom is Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).

This movie is so much fun. I can’t comment on the transfer from the page to screen because I have never read the comic book. The best thing is that it does not take itself too seriously, which allows the audience to have fun in a fully engrossing and entertaining manner. The actors have amazing chemistry, the special effects are nicely balanced with the narrative, and Lilly’s character stands on her own two feet without being limited to the relationships she has with the male characters.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.

I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.

Throwback Thursday: The Phantom (1996)

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. They also exist outside of the big IPs.

In the 1996 film, The Phantom, the title character (Billy Zane) is the latest line of superheros. Four hundred years ago, his ancestor witnessed his father’s murder on their ship. When he finally returns to dry land, he swears that he will become a version of Robin Hood. This legacy is passed down from father son until we get to what was then the present day. The current Phantom’s latest is nemesis Xander Drax (Treat Williams). There is also the love interest in the form of his ex, Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) and the wannabe love interest/baddie Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Like The Shadow (1994), it is a live action version of an old time radio show. As narratives go, it is rather generic. While the action is decent, there is nothing that makes it stand out in the genre.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

RIP Chadwick Boseman

To say that cancer is cruel is an understatement. It steals lives when one is otherwise perfectly healthy, taking away what should be years, if not decades of life, love, and experiences.

Actor Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer earlier today. He was 43.

He was best known for playing real life heroes (Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013) and James Brown in Get on Up (2014)) and fictional superheroes (T’Challa/Black Panther in the Marvel Avengers franchise).

My heart hurts. Tears are welling up in my eyes. He was one of the actors who could jump from genre to genre, from character to character. The transition was seamless. His future as an performer was full of possibilities.

But cancer had other plans.

May his memory be a blessing and may he live forever on the silver screen.

Z”L

P.S. The fact that he was constantly working throughout the four years of his battle with cancer tells me at least everything I need to know about who the man was.

Aquaman Movie Review

Disclaimer: I know nothing of the cannon Aquaman from the comic books, this review is strictly based on the movie.

When a character is torn between two worlds, he or she must make a choice. It is that choice that defines who they are.

In the new movie, Aquaman, (based on the comic book character of the same name) Aquaman/Arthur Reed (Jason Mamoa) is caught between two worlds. His father, Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) is an ordinary man who manages a lighthouse. His mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) a Queen of Atlantis. While they are in love and happy to have a life together, the reality is that there are opposing forces to their love.

As an adult, Aquaman/Arthur Reed knows that he is born of two worlds. While he plays the super hero game, he is not ready to accept that he is a Prince of Atlantis. Then Mera (Amber Heard) comes to him and begs for his help. Mera is a member of another royal family of the sea and engaged to Orm (Patrick Wilson), Aquaman/Arthur Reed’s younger half-brother. Orm not only has his eye on the throne, but he is angry about the destruction of his world by pollution.

Can Orm be stopped and more importantly, can Aquaman/Arthur Reed find his place in the world?

I am not particularly a fan of super hero movies based on comic books, but I loved this movie. Jason Mamoa was tailor made for this role. I appreciated that the female leads (Mera and Atlanna) are bad ass and far from the sexualized, 2D romantic partner/damsel in distress female characters that often appear in comic books. I also appreciated the message about pollution and doing our part to ensure that we do not destroy our environment.

Though, I have to admit that the choice of hair color for Mera for me, as a redhead, is a little questionable. While I understand that Mera is a redhead in the comic books, I would have preferred a more natural red instead of a red color that looks like it came from a kool aid container.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Aquaman is currently in theaters. 

 

RIP Stan Lee

Comic books are sometimes dismissed as violent, sexual, immature and not fit for the eyes of its young readers. But comic book can also reach its readers in a way that few genres can. Today the comic book genre lost one of its brightest stars and iconic creators, Stan Lee.

Mr. Lee was born in 1922 to Jewish immigrants who were originally from Romania. In his teens, he started working at Timely Comics, which would decades later become Marvel Comics. After fighting for his country in World War II,  Mr. Lee returned creating comic books. Instead of introducing readers to variations of the same characters they had seen previously, he started creating characters that were not just misfits, but also fully fleshed out as human beings.

Readers fell in love with  immortal characters such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four and X-Men. While they were reading about superheroes who were going on out of this world adventures, they were also hopefully opening their minds to those were being disenfranchised because they were different. In a very subtle manner, the Feminist Movement, the Civil rights movement and other movements whose goal of enfranchisement of those who rights have been taken away or non-existent benefited from the characters whose stories are told within these comic books.

In the words of our mutual ancestors, may the memory of Stan Lee be a blessing not just to his loved ones, but to the millions of fans who have adored his creations over the years.

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