Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Movie Review

When Chadwick Boseman passed away two years ago, it was more than the loss of an actor whose gifts were once in a generation. His portrayal of T’Challa/Black Panther in the original Black Panther film was groundbreaking and universally applauded.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was released in theaters this past weekend. It takes place a half dozen years after the first movie ended. It starts with T’Challa’s off-screen death from an unknown illness. The loss of both the King and protector leaves Wakanda in a state of mourning. While his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) steps up to lead the nation and deal with pressure from the outside, her daughter Shuri (Letitia Wright) tries to pretend that everything is fine.

Then a new threat emerges. Namor (Tenoch Huerta) is the king of an underwater Indigenous people. His ancestors were nearly exterminated by Spanish colonizers. Like the Wakandans, vibranium is part and parcel of their culture. Namor is threatening to wage war against the surface world. The only way to appease him is to bring him a young wunderkind scientist, Riri Williams/Ironheart (Dominique Thorne).

Ramonda and Shuri have a tough decision ahead. Do they sentence this young girl to death or do they work with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and M’Baku (Winston Duke) to stop Namor?

Wow. Like its predecessor, the film balances action, emotion, and timely social issues. This is Wright’s film. She carries it with everything she has. I was floored by her abilities as a performer. In addition to dealing with the grief (and the connected mental health issues) that come with losing a loved one, Shuri must protect her country.

As in Black Panther, it is the women who are in leadership roles. Each is human and powerful in her own right. She is also an important part of the narrative and is dealing with the loss of T’Challa in her own way.

My only issue is that it was a little long.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It is one of my favorite movies of the year.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is presently in theaters.

P.S. As usual, stay for the mid-scene credits. It will make you cry.

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Nine Days Movie Review

Humans have been asking existential questions about life and how we came to be since the beginning of time.

The new film, Nine Days, presents this conundrum to the audience. Will (Winston Duke) is a cosmic gatekeeper of sorts. His job is to sort out which souls are sent to Earth to be born and which stay in their present form. With a new batch of recruits coming to his door, he relies on his friend Kyo (Benedict Wong) for companionship and advice. Among those that are eager to live are Alex (Tony Hale), Emma (Zazie Beetz), and Kane (Bill Skarsgård). Will has nine days to parse out the candidates.

In addition, he spends his days keeping an eye on those he has previously send to be born via a bunch of old school televisions. Taking copious notes and recording their actions on VHS tapes, he starts to obsess over a violin virtuoso named Amanda.

While most of the candidates are accepting of Will and the process, Emma asks questions that start to challenge him.

The acting is fantastic, especially from Duke and Beetz. As Will, he is so held together that when he explodes, he really explodes. Speaking in clipped tones in which every syllable is enunciated, you can feel the emotional energy it takes to keep the lid on. On the other side of the scale, Emma is so free-spirited and full of life, that you just want to take that ride with her, regardless of the destination.

The problem is that the film drags on. Whatever existential question that the narrative is supposed to ask is never truly answered. By the 2/3rds mark, I was bored and ready to see the credits roll.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

Nine Days is presently in theaters.

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