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!

Tim!

The History of Horror Movies (Cross Talk EP 38)

Horror movies represent a particularly special blend of storytelling and emotional triggers.

Some argue that horror movies are meant to reveal our deepest fears, others suggest they serve as morality tales about what is acceptable in society and the consqeuences of going against the natural order, still others believe that they serve as a mirror of their time. Whatever the case the telling of terrifying stories is something which has long been part of our collective cultural experience, and as horror movies became a more common format in cinema, so too did they evolve over time.

In this very special episode of Cross Talk, Chris and I take some time to give a somewhat concise overview of the history of the horror genre, all the way from the 1920s through to present day – landing the plane with Get Out, It Comes at Night,  The Killing of a Sacred Deer, IT, Better Watch Out, and a few others!

We make some obvious associations, like the birth of the slasher in the 1960s, and the over-saturation of the theme in the 1980s, the importance of the atomic age and how films of the 1950s all had a twinge of the absurd, which paved the way for cross-over genre films in later decades.

Of particular note is the importance of social issues and their place within the oeuvre of George A. Romero and other landmark directors, including the eponymous Alfred Hitchcock, who helped take horror from the realm of fear of the unknown and the mythological, and thrust it into the everyday.

And one of my favourite highlights – the first commercially successful and critically acclaimed Marvel movie is also a horror movie.

As it turns out,  I actually have a lot to say about the genre, and while my personal collection of films is closer to 2000 then 1000 at this point, I have almost 150 titles then could be classified at horror movies. Chris is a self-admitted horror fan, but it seems that we both know enough to provide a good overview of the genre, and hopefully share some theories you haven’t heard before!

This is the history of Horror movies, this is episode thirty eight of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

Were you surprised by our thoughts on the genre overall? Did you learn anything interesting? Was our feedback on Alien vs Aliens too on the nose? I was personally surprised how many remakes came out in the 2000s and found it really valuable to learn how the 1940s was the period when genre sharing started to become more common.

Sharing is caring creative cuties, hopefully you’ve got some examples that we’ve never even considered, so comment below! And of course we’d love to hear from you in general, so please comment with your favourite horror picks, what you’ve pulled from each of these decades, and why you think horror reflects the current times best.

Until next time, please like and share the content! And subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t yet. I’ll be sharing some insights on a new Brent Cobb album!

Tim!

Combine And Transform (Batman Ninja review)

Not every movie is going to resonate with all audiences, especially when it deviates from expectations, when it shifts our ideas of what a franchise means AND when it embraces unpopular elements to make something better.

 

Batman Ninja (2018)

Cast: Roger Craig Smith, Grey Griffin, Tony Hale, Fred Tatasciore, Tara Strong, Yuri Lowenthal, Will Friedle, Tom Kenny, Adam Croasdell, Eric Bauza
Director: Junpei Mizusaki
released on blu-ray Apr 24, 2018
********* 9/10

IMDB: 5.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Audience Score 47%
The Guardian: N/A

Junpei Mizusaki is a Japanese animator, producer, and newly minted director. Having previously worked on Mega Man games (Megan Man X8, Megan Man X Command Mission, Mega Man X7) a TV series called JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, a segment from the film Zoo, and a host of other anime content.

His anime resume should more then prove his ability to put together a solid anime film, but what is truly at stake is the mythos of Batman. And the question that remains is can Mizusaki properly fuse to elements of culture without bastardizing one to improve the other?

Special thanks to Warner Brosfor the IMDB summary of the film –

Batman Ninja takes a journey across the ages as Gorilla Grodd’s (Fred Tatasciore) time displacement machine transports many of Batman’s worst enemies to feudal Japan – along with the Dark Knight (Roger Craig Smith) and a few of his allies. The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker (Tony Hale) taking the lead among the warring factions. As his traditional high-tech weaponry is exhausted almost immediately, Batman must rely on his intellect and his allies – including Catwoman (Grey Griffin) and the extended Bat-family – to restore order to the land, and return to present-day Gotham City.

If it’s not clear yet, I actually love Batman, which is why I’ve been so selective in my reviews on Batman related content, because at timotheories we really want to give you the best movies to watch, not just what is popular and trending. And so I can argue without a reasonable doubt that this is one of the best Batman movies since 2008’s The Dark Knight. Yes, I loved The LEGO Batman Movie, but there have been so many other properties distributed in recent years that fail to capture the discipline, absurdity, intellect, and intensity of The Batman.

Gotham By Gaslight was pretty good too, but this resonates much more strongly. I’m not sure that’ve made this statement properly before either, but I believe that Batman should be a public domain property at this point. Sure DC Comics can retain the right to produce movies, make stories and sell merchandise, but other creators should have the ability to tell stories with a character which is almost a century old at this point.

And this is why I loved Batman Ninja. An untested director took the mythos, respected it, and also added to it. Now, I will admit that the movie gets stranger as it moves along, but if you watch any anime, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the film would enter into weird tangental discussions and feature ridiculous plot threads.

This is common in anime, and Batman Ninja delivers on the absurdity of Batman’s history.

Pros: The Japanese animation team that constructed this story honours the history of Batman, while also elevating his mythos and injecting something new into the mix, something that is far more interesting then many of the previous DC animated films. The backdrop of the story is lushly crafted, and the zaniness of the comics is amplified with Japanese samurai, ninja, and feudal era culture.

Cons: The premise of the story is unique, but it is somewhat rushed to resolution in the final act, and how everything progresses to reach that resolution (spoilers: robot castles) is somewhat bizarre when considered through the lenses of western standards of filmmaking.

Runtime: 1 hours 25 minutes

Points of Interest: All of the fight scenes were performed and filmed with live actors first and then animation was created from that footage. The Batman figure formed from the bat and monkey armies in the final battle is very similar to his first costume in Detective Comics.

Ultimately, my major disappointment with this film is that I expected a more serious exploration of Batman trapped in feudal Japan. Learning and improving upon samurai and ninja disciplines was an awesome plot thread, but why wasn’t it explored more?

theories Summarized

In summary, if you are willing to accept the flaws of Batman, and go into this film expecting it to defy traditional western filmmaking, then you’ll have a really great time seeing a properly made Batman anime. In fact, I hope DC makes more of these types of films, or all of their flagship characters. If you’re a collector this needs to be on your shelf.

And if you want another genre-defying film to fill your film-watching needs, then it might be time to either dust off The Descent or pick it up if you haven’t seen it yet. Chris has all of the details in this Watch Culture video movie review

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!

Tim!

Films That Have A Profound Psychologist Effect (Cross Talk Ep. 35)

In preparation for today’s episode, I decided to do a little research about the psychology of film, and in the process, I learned a few things.

For instance, did you know that film and psychology have been connected since the late nineteenth century? With research labs studying the mechanics of perception and how our visual recall works, and producers like Samuel Goldwyn working to lure the psychologist Sigmund Freud in to help determine the subtext of his films. He actually offered Freud one hundred grand to secure a meeting with Freud in Vienna in 1925. And then Hugo Munsterberg posited that film actually allowed the inner working of the mind to become visible, thus shifting our way of thinking about thinking.

Other academics like Gordon Allport have even gone so far as to indicate that cinema is a standardized daydream, which is kind of horrifying when we consider the implications against mass consumption. In the world of marketing, there is a very real fear of being led towards a product decision without conscious consideration and there is evidence that many marketers employ tactics to get such a response, so why wouldn’t a two hour video create a far stronger impression then a 30 second commercial?

But maybe that’s actually a good thing. In fact, I really do believe it to be the case.

It is the role of the critic to give the viewer the tools to think differently about art, and it is the role of the artist to give meaning to life. So by all accounts, films that affect us should be considered to be instrumental in shaping our world views and when we feel something during a movie, but are unsure of what it means, a critic can help to deconstruct that film for us, which in turn allows us to better understand ourselves and others.

There are many examples of stories out there which have parents, groups, and government campaigning against film, television, games and other art forms, because of the suggestive nature of that content, and in some cases, blaming the content for how children behave. Again, I agree that there is a lot of evidence that suggests such an outcome, but what if we exposed children, youth, and even adults in need of rehabilitation towards content which depicts a more empathetic worldview? Say Sling Blade, K-PAX, Moonrise Kingdom or the very recent films Get Out and Hostiles, the later of which I did a review on last week!

Maybe in those cases, we can learn something about the world and be less inclined towards hatred. Which is what Chris and I set out to do in coming up with a list of ten movies we collectively agree are incredibly impactful, and how each of those films personally effected us.

I think you’ll get special interest from the films Manchester By The Sea and The VVitch, as we focused on them in case studies from our lives. This is episode thirty seven of Cross Talk – movies which had a profound psychological effect.

theories Summarized

Were you surprised to learn how we each felt about these choices? I wasn’t especially taken back to discover how Chris feels about Manchester By The Sea, it is a very dark film, and Casey Affleck deserves all the awards he got for playing a depressed man. But I bet you weren’t expecting me to open up about The VVitch the way I did, now were you?

Sharing is caring creative cuties, hopefully you’ve got some examples that we’ve never even considered. And we’d love to hear from you, so please comment below with your picks, and if you’re up to it, please share a little bit about why these movies have left a mark.

Until next time, please like and share the content! And subscribe to the mailing list if you haven’t yet. I’ll be sharing some insights on a new Leon Bridges album!

Tim!

Traumatic Disorder (Hostiles review)

The life of a soldier is oft met with tragedy, both on the battlefront, and at home. But what happens when his battlefield is in his hometown? Prejudice, trauma, and an unhealthy mixture of isolation abound.

 

Hostiles (2017)

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Christian Bale, Wes Studi, Jonathan Majors, Stephen Lang, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster
Director: Scott Cooper
released on blu-ray Apr 24, 2018
******* 7/10

IMDB: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, Audience Score 72%
The Guardian: ***

Scott Cooper is an American Director, screenwriter, producer, and sometimes actor. His list of director credits include Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace, Black Mass, and now Hostiles. Having been active in the industry since 1998, Cooper spent the first decade of his career in the television industry, taking small acting roles before fully realizing that writing and directing was far more rewarding.

His directorial debut, Crazy Heart is nothing short of captivating, and shows a side of country music most of us miss. Plus, Jeff Bridges is amazing in it, so obviously Cooper recognizes casting quality over quantity. Hostiles also features a smaller cast and as it takes place in the late 19th century, has an authentic western flavour, but it’s not a misguided cowboys and indians kind of flick.

Special thanks to Nick Riganas for the IMDB summary of the film –

In 1892, after nearly two decades of fighting the Cheyenne, the Apache, and the Comanche natives, the United States Cavalry Captain and war hero, Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), is ordered to escort the ailing Cheyenne chief, Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi)–his most despised enemy–to his ancestral home in Montana’s Valley of the Bears. Nauseated with a baleful anger, Joseph’s unwelcome final assignment in the feral American landscape is further complicated, when the widowed settler, Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), is taken in by the band of soldiers, as aggressive packs of marauding Comanches who are still on the warpath, are thirsty for blood. In a territory crawling with hostiles, can the seasoned Captain do his duty one last time?

What I loved about this movie is also what I ultimately hated about it. If I might be so contrarian. I’ve always been a fan of westerns as a young boy, and I attribute a lot of that love to the relationship I have with my father and grandfather, who were both small-town farmers. It wasn’t until my dad moved to the “big city” in his late twenties, met my mom, and had me that the lifestyle cycle started to shift. Either way, they both love westerns, and I have a kinship with anything associated with it.

Hostiles is not your classic John Wayne, Yul Brenner or Lee Van Cleef story – where the heroes and villains are depicted by how long their shadows cast. There is serious consideration of the effect of colonization on indigenous peoples and no ethnic group is cast in a particularly strong light of altruism and rightness, instead each character is morally ambiguous, having both good and bad qualities, just like life should be. But lines are drawn to show both groups and the impact each has on the other. And Cooper does an excellent job of depicting the effects of war and colonization.

Now, what I hinted at about loving, is that in it’s longer run, it tells a great western story, but for that same reason, it doesn’t give characters like Yellow Hawk room to breathe. Which is incredibly frustrating to watch, because Wes Studi is such a legendary actor. Sure Christian Bale and Rosamond Pike are great, and it’s awesome to see how their characters evolve, but if a third protagonist had been given due exposure, this movie would have been phenomenal.

Pros: It challenges our conventions of history and the stories constructed to retell that history. It’s by no means flattering to any party, but as a result it simultaneously feels more raw and empathetic. While not an innovation of the form, Rosamund Pike and Christian Bale deliver great performances.

Cons: The pacing is incredibly slow, and the inclusion of additional characters in the third act feels forced, drawing away from an examination of characters, and into a broader back story for Blocker, which is unnecessary at that point. But again I ask, where is the development of Chief Yellow Hawk and his family?

Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes

Points of Interest: The film was shot in chronological order, and because it takes place mostly outdoors, the cast was exposed to the elements a lot. Production was shut down on a few occasions to account for weather. This is the second western Christian Bale has starred in – the first being 3:10 to Yuma remake.

It’s amazing to see how the life of Blocker has been shaped by living on a battlefield, and that because the American frontier is filled with tribes and peoples all trying to find their space, he never really gets to rest. Even more interesting that his final mission means escorting one of his early enemies home, and that they come to a better understanding of each other in the process, is very meaningful. I just wish I had seen more perspective from the Chief.

theories Summarized

A couple of final thoughts from me. Whether or not you enjoy westerns, this film is a great candidate to exposure of what western films have meant for American citizens for over a century now. They are effectively a propaganda told through the eyes of the victors. What hostiles does, is try to tell the story in a more nuanced way.

Yes, it does ultimately fall short of it’s goal, both due to pacing and character development, but the parts it succeeds at are well worth the struggle.

Speaking of struggles. I wanted to share this Watch Culture video I did on one of my all-time favourite animated classics – The Last Unicorn. Heavily influenced by classical literature, this is another movie which features Jeff Bridges in a voicing acting role, is directed by the team of Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. AND the band America did the soundtrack.

It’s highly underrated, in my humble opinion, but I hope this review gives you a chance to check it out or dust it off, as it were!

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!

Tim!