Wakanda For Real (Black Panther review)

I find it supremely satisfying to learn that a well-made movie, about a comic book character, and an origin story no-less, is at the top of this list both critically and commercially.

That the character is a black superhero appeals to me as both an artist (and an outlier) and because I think we’ve seen more then our share of white superheroes for some time now.


Black Panther (2018)

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright,  Winston Duke, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
Director: Ryan Coogler
released on blu-ray May 15, 2018
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Audience Score 79%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Ryan Kyle Coogler is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is best known for crafting stories that put minority characters and their cultures into the spotlight. He has directed three films, Fruitvale Station, Creed, and now Black Panther, all of which feature Michael B. Jordan in a prominent role. He will also be directing the Creed sequel which releases later this year.

Black Panther is currently the highest grossing film in history directed by an African American, a critical success and an overwhelming commercial success with an insane opening weekend box office of $202 million, beaten out only by two of the three Avengers films, Jurassic World, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi.

Special thanks to an anonymous Editor for the IMDB summary of the film –

After the events of Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes (Andy Serkis) (Michael B. Jordan) conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and members of the Dora Milaje (Danai Gurira), Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.

This is a film which upends a lot of stereotypes we’ve come to expect in movies. With an almost entirely black cast, each character is developed with great detail, and so there is someone for everyone to identify with, effectively eliminating any oversimplification of motives, interests and abilities. Wakanda is so much more technologically advanced then anywhere else in the world, in fact, they make James Bond movies look silly, which is demonstrated when T’Challa visits Seoul.

And let’s not forget that Shuri is the most brilliant scientist, and that the Dora Milaje are the most bad ass of the bad ass warrior guards I’ve seen in any movie really.

Pros: It’s beautiful to look at, with meticulously created sets, character backstories, lots of supporting cast that work well together, and well directed, despite it’s long runtime. Michael B. Jordan sings as Killmonger, making him one of the best villains, it not a serious contender for number one.

Cons: The fighting and action is such a formula now that it’s difficult to really appreciate it in light of all of the political discourse taking place over the length of the film. Chadwick Boseman takes a backseat to Michael B. Jordan.

Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes

Points of Interest: The name “Wakanda” comes from the Wakamba tribe of Kenya, also known as the Kamba. Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis both starred in The Hobbit movies, and were affectionately known on set as the “Tolkien White Guys”. In one of the areas where Wakandan glyphs move on translucent walls, one wall is blue and has “4” written on it, an homage to the Fantastic Four, where the Black Panther and Ulysses Klaw made their debut appearances.

Not only is it the best looking Marvel movie yet, the soundtrack is excellent on it’s own, and it can knowingly function as it’s own film, with very little involvement from other Marvel Studio movies. Plus the politics. Thank God for the political subtleties of this story.

theories Summarized

So there you have it, all of my thoughts and feelings about the Black Panther movie, which I believe is a very important movie in the MCU and am very thankful has gotten so much praise from minority groups, considering how well made it is. I hope that means we will see even more minority character representation in the MCU movies going forward – perhaps even a Sam Wilson Captain America?

I also thought it would be a good idea to release a Watch Culture video about Captain America Civil War to coincide with this Black Panther review! After all, we wouldn’t have gotten a Black Panther movie if this one hadn’t preceded it, plus it’s an amazing representation of comics in general.

Lastly, please let me know what you thought of both of these reviews on love, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel (and email) if you haven’t already. Lots more theories to come!


The Ultimate Question (N.E.R.D., No_One Ever Really Dies review)

I love it when music gets you questioning the core of things.

If an album can instantaneously shift my thoughts elsewhere, I know that it is moving, effective, and worth my attention. But yet, when it comes from a source that isn’t expected.



N.E.R.D. – No_One Ever Really Dies

released December 15, 2017
******** 8/10

Pharell Williams, Chad Hugo, and Shae Haley are lifelong friends and the members of the rock. funk and hip hop group N.E.R.D.. They formed back in 1999 as a side project for Williams and Hugo’s production team, The Neptunes; which had been producing songs for several artists throughout the late nineties and early 2000s, including another childhood friend, Timbaland. Their first album In Search Of… debuted at number 61 on the Billboard 200 in 2002, and sold 600K copies in the US, giving it gold status by the RIAA.

The second single, Rock Star, was what first drew my attention to the group.

Since that time N.E.R.D. have released four more studio albums with No_One Ever Really Dies showing up after a seven year absence from the public eye. Pharrell is probably the best known of the three members, having created two solo albums of his own (remember that single Happy that was part of the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack?), and also branching out into various media including film and clothing retail.

2017 will likely be remembered as the year of minority rights, especially as it relates to the first year of President Trump in the minds of American musicians. There were some great albums out there that reflected this from LCD Soundsystem, Sampha, Tyler, the Creator, Jay Z, Vince Staples, Common (technically over a year ago BUT STILL RELEVANT), and not surprisingly, Kendrick Lamar.

So why does this album work? Well believe it or not, conscious hip hop seems to be here to stay and N.E.R.D. were already diverse enough to take on the mantle without it hurting their street cred. Whereas someone like Eminem did make similar tone choices and even collaborated with similar artists on his own responsive album Revival, but his album just doesn’t stand up. And yea, Eminem was arguably the King of Hip Hop between 1995 and 2005, be he hasn’t really evolved in a constructive way in the past ten years, and the fact that he was a big deal with a distinct sound may be what hurt him this year.

I realize I’m almost four hundred words into this post and I still haven’t spoken about the songs on it. But the reason why I haven’t decided to focus on the songs themselves is because N.E.R.D. has always been a backburner to the genius of The Neptunes. All of their ideas and talent and creativity channelled into other artists, and the energy we got on In Search Of… and other albums was realistically a rougher and more exploratory sampling of what Williams and co. had left in their tanks at the end of a long journey. But that’s a good thing here.

It seems like no one really knows what to do about all of the problems going on in the world and America is so desperate to address all of it’s problems that music activism is in demand right now. N.E.R.D. have taken all of that energy and channeled it into a mix of feelings yet again. And that’s why this album is so appropriate for it’s time. We need rock, funk, R&B, soul, disco, pop, and hip hop all to work together for once, because if we don’t try to get along it’s only going to get worse out there.

Now is it innovative? No, because the musical themes are all ones that N.E.R.D. have been exploring for a decade, which is why it doesn’t get an A+. But improvement is still improvement folks.


Pros: Lemon and Don’t Don’t Do it are just amazing to listen to. Courtesy of Rihanna’s jaw-dropping rap and Kendrick Lamar’s choice verses, respectively. But the nervous energy and urgency of the whole record are cathartic to listen to, knowing that N.E.R.D. like to force weird shapes like prog-rock and soul together.

Cons: Some of these artist collaborations are a little too serious for the sweet mixture of silly and subversive that N.E.R.D. are tapping into. Ahem, Future.

Runtime: 51 minutes

Points of Interest: Don’t Don’t Do It!” features K. Dot and Frank Ocean, and is inspired by the police shooting death of North Carolina’s Keith Lamont Scott. Ed Sheeran features on the reggae closer Lifting You.

What I find most interesting about this album is that the quality of the music has greatly improved over the span of five studio length records. And whether the woke tone of this music sits well with you or not, N.E.R.D. have managed a way to weave it all together and get you questioning whether they are serious about the subject matter or simply exploiting it to move us forward another decade ahead of schedule, as per usual.

theories Summarized

Optimism is important in this day and age. Should you buy this album. Yes, I think you should. And my theory is that it was designed to elevate your mood, but also get you thinking about the reality of these atrocities we are all witness to on a daily basis. It’s almost impossible to have a full understanding of every angle, but N.E.R.D. have managed once again to provide us with yet another perspective on police brutality, transgender issues, black and minority rights, and the harshness of anti-immigration without ham-fisting everything. It’s a theory I’ll happily pack into explosive force of love.


Make A Name For Yourself (Moonlight review)

I’ve always wondered how much of our identities stem from ourselves, and how much of them come from the world that surrounds us.

Are we peerless souls encased in moonlight, shimmering ever so slightly in shades of indigo as the night wears on? Who is you?




Moonlight (2016)

Cast: Mahershala Ali, Alex R. Hibbert, Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland
Director: Barry Jenkins
released on blu-ray February 28, 2017
******** 9/10

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Audience Score 83%
The Guardian: *****/*****


Barry Jenkins is a an American film director and writer who has made two films thus far in his career – Medicine for Melancholy and Moonlight. There is an eight year gap between those two films, which I find kind of unsettling, but it managed to get the movie tons of accolades, so who am I to judge on his methods of working?

Moonlight is an interesting film, to say the least.

If we were to be honest with ourselves, would we not all have very different identities at various stages of our lives? Stages which defined us and drove our purpose forward, not matter the personal cost? That’s what Moonlight asks, all through the lenses of vulnerable gay black man, while simultaneously telling a universal story about identity. It’s intelligent, beautiful, difficult to stomach at times, and it is both timely and timeless.

The story is broken up into three parts – Little (Alex R. Hibbert), Chiron (Ashton Sanders), and Black (Trevante Rhodes).

The first part focuses on Little, a little boy named Chiron who is constantly teased by other children, but who receives little help from his drug-addicted mother. One day he is found by Cuban drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who decides to let Little stay with him and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae) for the night. Eventually Little tells Juan how to find his mother Paula (Naomie Harris). Juan spends a lot of time with Little, teaching him to swim and to become his own man, but Paula continues to be a bad influence on the boy, calling him a faggot at one point. Juan is ashamed when Little asks him if he ever sells drugs to his mother.

The second part is about teenaged Chiron. Frequently bullied at school, Chiron spends time between his now prostitute and drug-addicted mother and the widow Teresa, as Juan had died previously. Juan is friends with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), but has a dream in which he sees Kevin having sex with a woman. On a different night the two friends smoke a joint together, discuss the nickname of “Black” that Kevin has given him, and as the conversation heats up, the two kiss. Then Kevin masturbates Chiron. Then at school, the bullies convince Kevin to punch someone, and Chiron is chosen. Kevin punches Chiron several times, and the bullies assault him, but Chiron won’t reveal the identities of who attacked him. The next day, Chiron assaults one of the bullies and is arrested.

Finally the third part of the story is about an adult Chiron who is now a drug dealer and goes by the street name Black. His mother is in drug treatment and wishes to reconcile, but he ignores her. Then one day an adult Kevin (André Holland) contacts him, leaving a message in which he apologizes for what happened in high school. Black decides to visit his mother and they hash out their feelings. Black then travels to see Kevin, who works at a diner, but Kevin can’t seem to get many details out of Chiron. The pair drive back to Kevin’s and Black finally admits he is not happy nor has he had another sexual encounter since high school. Kevin comforts him, and Chiron thinks back on childhood.

Pros: This movie is not full of big speeches or talking heads explaining feelings. It is full of real dialogue and deep silences, the conflicts of masculine identity are very real here. Stories of identity have been told like this before, but not in this way.

Cons: It has such a strong start with the first and second two parts that the harsh drop-off in intimacy and plot in the third act make up for it, but man do those last twenty five minutes feel strained at key points.

Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes

Points of Interest: The film is based on the unproduced play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by MacArthur Fellow Tarell Alvin McCraney. Two firsts in the history of film, Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim person to win an Academy Award for acting AND this is the first LGBT film, and the first film featuring an all black cast, to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Jenkins is lucky. Many directors have tried and failed to capture such a wide audience with a powerful story, and this is only his second film ever full realized. Moonlight might represent a win for the LGBT community and another for the black community, but more importantly I think it represents a willingness for change on the part of decision makers within the film community. And as already mentioned over and over again, Moonlight is an excellent story of identity. It asks hard questions about exposure.

theories Summarized

Do I think this is a perfect film? No. But do I think it’s an excellent study in human nature. So often in life we portray versions of ourselves for others, never fully aware of what we look like to the world we live within. Hopefully the soul is what we see at the end of the day, but only moonlight can cast off those shadows that well. At least, that’s my theory.


Homecoming (Leon Bridges, Coming Home review)

To be brief, I personally believe the most awesome power of music is that it can address specific emotions. And particular kinds of music have the ability to draw up those feelings in ways that no other kinds of sound can. Soul music easily comes to mind in this regard.

As a white man, with a mixed ethnicity of european countries, I have little in the way of understanding the totality of soul music. As its origins are tied into the lives, successes, challenges and dreams of black people, especially from the United States.

But I can appreciate the quality of the music and the basic human emotions that those artists put forth. Fortunately this week’s review comes from an artist who can properly address the genre.




Leon Bridges – Coming Home
released June 23, 2015
******* 8/10


Todd Michael Bridges is better known by his stage name, Leon Bridges. He released his first studio album Coming Home under Columbia in the summer of 2015 after playing in local clubs in and around Fort Worth in the USA. A chance meeting with White Denim’s Austin Jenkins is what pulled things into focus though.

Bridges’ music is 1950’s and 60’s inspired soul, with elements of gospel, R&B and blues thrown in for good measure.

He is only 26 years young and has experienced a meteoric rise from washing dishes and playing at open mics, to releasing a couple of singles to Soundcloud, Spotify and other streaming sources in 2014/early 2015, to working his first album to be released in time for summer.

This was almost a year ago.

And this might also be obvious if you’ve heard the title track Coming Home, which was one of the singles from the album, but this record was put together with vintage equipment and using local musicians that White Denim collaborate with. If you need to reference the rich back catalogue of soul music to get a feel for his sound, Otis Redding and especially Sam Cooke come to mind. And Bridges purposefully dresses the part which means if you snuck a vinyl copy of this album in with some records from that era, it wouldn’t look out of place.

Yeah, yea, timotheories that is all well and good, but what does the album sound like? And is it any good?

Well, in a word, yeah.

If you enjoy a good combination of guitar, drums, piano, saxaphone, female back up vocals (and who doesn’t), along with smooth sounding lyrics set to ballads, and relaxed storytelling, then Coming Home will feel just like home.

I decided to buy this album on a whim. I was inspired by the cover art and I’m a sucker for a good crooner (read: yesterday’s post about marketing), which is the vibe I got, so if that’s an indication of the quality of the record, great, but for you non-believers, let’s continue on.

One of the perks of writing a review on an album that has been out for a little while is that I get to lend my spin to the review process without the urgency element and draw from the wealth of information already available. Drawing a parallel between myself and Bridges, I have choosen to become comfortable with a set of creative rules (some might say limitations, and they’d be wrong) so that I can best exemplify what it is I want to put out there in giving you useful feedback on music. Which is an important point to make about Bridges – comfortability.

Yes, Leon Bridges wears “vintage” clothes and echoes all the common pieces of the genre, but dammit if he isn’t authentically expressing his love of music and soul in particular. He is comfortable in and snuggles up close to the genre

Which is why I gave it an eight. This is an incredible piece of soul music, from a technical standpoint. I can’t fully commit though, because Bridges doesn’t either.

You see, dear readers, Bridges isn’t of the time period this music beckons from and he doesn’t have the same urgency and exhaustive energy behind the albums. At least that’s the impression I get. I suspect with time he will improve incredibly.

For now, I recommend the listen to the album we do have and you should definitely check out these tracks to get you started 1 2 3 4.




In short, yes Leon Bridges is a talented musician and yes he should keep singing soul music because he is damn good at it, but whether he has fully captured the essence of the emotional genre remains to be seen. My hope and belief is that he will improve with age, and so I’ll add this album to my collection.

But what do yo think? Is my theory on point? Comment! Subscribe! Share! I’ll see you tomorrow with something theatrical.