Black Panther

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T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who believes the throne belongs to himself.

Marvel breaks ground once again with their first African superhero as the center of a film set in their cinematic universe. When Chadwick Boseman first played the role in Captain America: Civil War, I knew we should be getting a solo film for him soon, and he nails it once again as the fantastic protagonist of king T’Challa. We feel that he is conflicted about how ready he is for his new position but like those around him, would die for his country of Wakanda. We are immersed in the visually striking setting of Wakanda which is realized very well as not only a gorgeous setting, but as a country that must choose its position in the world. The rest of the cast is also outstanding, with more African Americans cast in big roles than any superhero film before. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger steps out of medicore Marvel villain territory and delivers a complexly portrayed and excellently motivated antagonist who’s a great counterpart to Boseman. His rage is brought on so well and we actually understand why he wants to fight our heroes, and his reasons aren’t too bad. I’d be damned if this isn’t one of the best villains modern superhero films has to offer. Lupita Nyong’o as T’Challa’s ex-lover is also a well-written character who will stand by his side and help him out at all costs, and Danai Gurira as the ass-kicking Okoye steals some of the fights. We’ve also got the awesome presence of Oscar-nominated Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, and I’m seriously convinced this guy should be in every upcoming movie, and there’s the hilarious and memorable tribe leader M’Baku played by Winston Duke, who we definitely need more from soon, and who doesn’t love some charm from Martin Freeman? However, my favorite member of the supporting cast was Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, as she’s inventive, sweet, funny, and brings lots of light to her scenes. Every member of the cast is well-realized and I couldn’t ask more from the nuanced performances and great chemistry they all have.

Black Panther may be set in the biggest universe in cinematic history, but even though the enormous Infinity War team-up is only two months away, Black Panther remembers to be its own story, free of set-ups, teases, and big characters thrown in from other films (save for an awesome post-credits scene). There are no Infinity Stones or scenes that need to hint at what’s next for the Black Panther saga, instead we get a story that stays within its 2-hour length, allowing us to really explore the themes and character motivations without being reminded too much we’re watching a comic-book film. Vivid costumes, sets, and action make this visually pleasing, but we also dig deep into why everyone does what they’re doing, and what leaders must do to help others, not just when it concerns them. We get a well-directed and written action film thanks to Creed‘s Ryan Coogler but also how Black Panther himself takes steps to make the world a better place. A couple of scenes do dive into familiar territory, but by the end, Black Panther is a new kind of Marvel movie and a spirited hero for us all to love.

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The 2018 Golden Slice Awards

Every year, I hold an Oscar-like awards ceremony to see what my Instagram followers’ favorite films of the year were. This year, I had many categories and many people who voted, so thank you to all my followers who participated. Usually I post the winners here, but this year I’m trying something new — a YouTube video! This is my first video in a long time, and it won’t be the last. If you want to find out the winners of this year’s Golden Slice Awards, please check out my video below, and don’t forget to subscribe to my channel!

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

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In the final chapter of the Maze Runner trilogy, Thomas embarks on a mission to save his friend Minho from the sinister organization WCKD and find a cure for the deadly disease known as the Flare.

I enjoyed reading the Maze Runner books so when the films were announced, I was excited. Though I did enjoy the first film, the second one wasn’t very good and put the potential of this final film at risk. Though this did take much longer to release due to Dylan O’Brien’s injuries on set, the franchise has finally concluded, and though it’s often bland in its execution, it wraps things up pretty well. The cast that includes Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Giancarlo Esposito are quite good, but some of the writing, especially in the first half, is so forced it’s hard to care for the emotion they try to deliver. Too much time is spent discussing a disease and its cure and not enough about Thomas’ internal and external conflict which we cared so much about in the first film. It does recover from the mess of The Scorch Trials, which strode away from the main focus of the series and was too unevenly paced and unnecessarily crowded. This film knows which cast members to put in the center and which characters it doesn’t need, and it begins with a very entertaining action scene but then goes to the predictable “main character on a rogue mission to save the world” route. The dialogue feels either too rushed or too direct and cliche to care too much about, and though the action is quite fun, the character development is sometimes not in the right places. However, the second half does recover with a dramatic and thrilling final battle for the series, that hits the right emotional marks at the end and often keeps the viewer in their seat. As someone who is somewhat a fan of this series, I enjoyed this movie by the end and thought it was an improvement over the second one, but I wouldn’t defend it over the mixed reviews it’s getting because despite the entertaining action and cast, there isn’t much to love. It’s a serviceable conclusion to a series that wasn’t all that great but ends on a good note for the franchise. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you’ll definitely have a lot of fun with this finale, but if you’re not a fan or haven’t seen the other films, don’t bother.

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The Greatest Showman

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The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, and is loosely based on the true story of how he rose from rags to riches by founding a circus that ended up running for nearly 150 years. Jackman has proven talent and range in his career, from 17 years as Wolverine, to impressive and deep performances in films like Prisoners and The Prestige. Here he finds himself another suiting role as Barnum, the showman who inspired those who were different to be proud of themselves and brought joy to many watchers with his entertainment. Jackman not only brings charm and confidence to this role, but can also sing well. Michelle Williams as Barnum’s wife, Zac Efron as his newly-found business partner, and Zendaya as a trapeze artist are all delightful too, despite some wasted supporting roles like Rebecca Ferguson’s character. The Greatest Showman will definitely appeal to fans of musicals and younger audiences, with very entertaining songs written by Oscars winners Pasek and Paul, which are fun and the best parts of the film. In addition to that, there’s a charming story about family, love, embracing those who are different, never giving up and bringing happiness to others. However, we’ve seen it all before and it’s not hard to predict where everything will go. The story of a character with nothing but a bold idea who convinces himself and others to never give up on their dreams has been explored many times before, and as a family film you can’t expect it to take many unexpected turns, but many times has this plot been shown and it’s not done very differently here to make the story stand out from others. Even the recent film The Disaster Artist was able to deliver this story in a way that felt creative and unique. Some of the plot elements feel heavily fictionalized to follow this family-friendly story, and I wish it had stuck true to the real events, which I’m not familiar with but I bet would have made a much deeper and resonating story and not just a fun one. Like I said before, Jackman is great as Barnum, but we never explore his inner self other than his love for his family and show business which has come out of nowhere. We don’t feel any conflict in him, only the positive decisions and emotions, which I understand as it’s a kid’s movie, but even younger audiences could learn a little more from him. I wouldn’t push audiences away from this film, as everyone in my theater clapped in the end and even I had quite a fun time watching it. However, I wish it had aimed for more than the cliche plot and themes and gone for something more daring.

The Greatest Showman will definitely please families with its entertaining musical numbers and cast, and has some familiar but sweet themes for kids and sequences that parents will enjoy watching with their children. I had a delightful time myself watching this one, and I would overall recommend it for families to go and watch. If only this had something for adults to grip onto and remember as well, and not just bring their kids to see.

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