Current Mini Reviews (Devotion, Food and Romance, The Whale, All Quiet on the Western Front, An American Ballet Story)

Hey everyone! I am back to give you my thoughts on a bunch of recent movie releases. I wish I could do longer reviews on all of these but that isn’t possible. Here we go:

Devotion

Movie "Devotion" filmed in Statesboro opens at AMC Statesboro Nov. 22

Not every film is a masterpiece. In fact, most aren’t. Most are base hits instead of homeruns. Devotion is a perfect example of a base hit. It tells the heart-tugging story of Korean War hero Jesse Brown who was the first Black aviator in Navy History. He is played by Jonathan Majors who perfectly captures the confidence yet awkwardness of the character. This is especially true when compared with his suave wingman and friend J.D. Dillard played by Glen Powell (despite the similar career the role is actually quite different than his aviator in Top Gun Maverick.)

Devotion definitely drags in the middle as the pilots get to know one another on both sea and land (they spend a day flirting with Elizabeth Taylor at one point in the script.) It picks up towards the end as we know things are likely not going to go well for our soldiers but it earns its emotions, is well made and acted and for a conflict we don’t know much about I’m glad I saw it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Food and Romance

Tisdagsklubben - Bio.nu

Next on the docket comes out of Sweden and is a really sweet, pleasant romance called Food and Romance. Like Devotion, this doesn’t do anything new or exciting but what it does, it does well. It stars Marie Richardson as Karin who after 40 years of marriage ends up single and alone. To keep her spirits up she decides to take a cooking class, which is led by a grumpy unhappy chef named Henrik (Peter Stormare).

Of course they start up not liking each other but their bond grows as they cook together. That’s a very romantic concept and the 2 leads have lovely chemistry. The other classmates and friends are a lot of fun and it all makes for a delightful story of second chance romance.

7 out of 10

The Whale

The Whale' Review: Brendan Fraser in Darren Aronofsky's Film - Variety

I think most of America is rooting for Brendan Frasier. I don’t know all the details but it seems like he was bullied out of Hollywood, faced hard times and is working his way back into films. He certainly has received loads of praise for Darren Aronfsky’s The Whale, and will probably be nominated for an Oscar for his performance, which is great. I’m happy for him.

That said, I did not enjoy The Whale. His performance is fine and honestly not as fat shamey as I feared. He tries to bring humanity to the 500 lb man named Charlie he plays in the film. Unfortunately the script surrounds him with people who are so mean that it becomes a frustrating experience.

I particularly hated Sadie Sink as his miserable, angry teenage daughter. I understand being a teenager is tough but so often they are portrayed as practical robots to their rage especially here. Any humanity to her character mostly feels imagined by Charlie more than a real attribute to her character.

The whole experience of watching The Whale was excruciating and it felt like it would never end. No thanks.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front' Review: The Spectacle of War - The New York  Times

Coming from Germany onto Netflix we have the latest telling of the novel All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s been a while since I read the book or saw the 1930 classic but this new version can still stand alone as a worthy adaptation. It’s a brutal watch that I’m not sure we needed but it’s certainly one of the most well made of any of the Oscar contenders I’ve seen.

The movie follows Paul Bäumer as he and his buddies join up for World War 1 with excitement and even glee. Quickly they learn what they have gotten themselves into and each dies one by one in the most brutal of all the conflicts (it must have been intense to watch the 1930 version when it was all so fresh in their minds.)

There isn’t much relief from the brutality of war here and like I said I’m not sure this gives us anything we haven’t seen before in movies like 1917 just a few years ago. Still it’s a harrowing reminder of the horrors of war and quite masterfully put together.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

An American Ballet Story

May be an image of 10 people, people standing and indoor

I’m a sucker for documentaries about art and artists. Even if others find them dry I like learning about creative minds and what goes into their artistic process. That’s essentially what we get with An American Ballet Story. It’s a documentary that tells the story of the Harkness Ballet and its founder Rebekah Harkness that changed the world of dance in the 1960s.

A documentary like this is somewhat constrained by the footage they have to use (and archival interviews they can find) and that is the case here. A lot of the images are grainy and not as clear of the dancers as we’d like to see but director Leslie Streit gets enough personal stories to keep the narrative going.

If you have any interest in dance or the arts you will enjoy this informative documentary.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is My Wish Come True

Going into 2022 I can tell you one thing- I did not expect to prefer both DreamWorks films over both Pixar (and Disney) films and to be crowning one of them as my favorite movie of 2022…and yet here we are. Even more surprising is that film, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a sequel in a franchise that has well exceeded its welcome. This is why I always go into a movie hoping to be dazzled with what the filmmakers have to offer.

I’ve long said the match of Antonio Banderas with the character of Puss in Boots is one of the best use of celebrity voices ever. This is not movie star stunt casting but a perfect match of voice to character. Banderas continues that tradition here voicing the famous feline to perfection. Giving just the right amount of moxie mixed with a little bit of fatigue from using all those lives.

In fact Puss in Boots learns at the start of The Last Wish he only have 1 more of his 9 lives left. Being accident-prone he better get the most of his last life and learn to work with others before its too late.

One aspect that’s interesting about this film is it actually has a lot of similarities with the recent GDT’s Pinocchio. Both deal with death and the afterlife as a theme, have a wood-spirit type creature that controls access to heaven and both have stunning animation.

The only main difference is GDT has songs and gets bogged down a little bit in the middle sending Pinocchio to war. This is why I’d give The Last Wish the slight edge in my ranking (but both top 10 of the year at the moment).

Like I said, the animation is astonishing in The Last Wish. I am absolutely enamored by recent animation trends began by Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. The way the hybrid animation ebbs and flows between 2D and CG is breathtaking and makes every scene memorable- especially the action. When Puss in Boots is sliding across rooftops chasing people it took my breath away.

But it’s not all action. We have meaningful conversations about what makes a worthy life, how we can recover from grief and the importance of friendship. There’s also a lot of humor from Puss in Boots, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek.) and the selfish Goldilocks (Florence Pugh).

Looking at a movie like Puss in Boots: the Last Wish I worry people will dismiss it as a cash-grab sequel but you shouldn’t. Just the animation alone is worth the cost of admission but the script by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow is outstanding. I actually haven’t seen it on the big screen yet (saw screener link) but I can’t wait to do so. It’s a blast that I can’t recommend more completely.

9.5 out of 10

 

 

 

 

[REVIEW] ‘THE FABELMANS’ or I’m Sorry Steven Your Story Didn’t Work for Me

Reviewing a movie like The Fabelmans is challenging because it’s clearly coming from such a personal loving place. It feels weird to be criticizing someone’s journey and basically saying ‘your story didn’t work for me.’ Alas, that is my job and what I have to do for this review of Steven Spielberg’s sentimental tale based on his own adolescence: The Fabelmans. I respect the effort and it has nice moments but as a whole the film rang flat and most of the endearing sections felt phony and inauthentic rather than moving.


The Fabelmans begins with young Sammy becoming inspired by a trip to the theater to see Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. In particular, a train crash sequence blows Sammy’s mind and he asks for a train set for Hanukkah so he can attempt to recreate it using his Dads super 8 camera.

Sammy has a computer programming father (Paul Dano), an eccentric composer mother (Michelle Williams) and 2 sisters. He also has a friend of the family “uncle” Bennie (Seth Rogan) who both his Mother and Father seem equally attached to. We then follow the family in its highs and lows throughout Sammy’s childhood until he graduates high school and goes to work in Hollywood.

The best section of the movie happens at the end when Sammy gets to meet with director John Ford played by director David Lynch. He gives the young filmmaker some very sage advice on what makes an image art and how to turn a scene into true cinema.

Unfortunately there was far too few of these compelling scenes. Frequent Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski shoots everything in nostalgic sepia tones, which is sweet, but I would have liked to see the cinematography change as the decades wear on. It all felt a little samesies after a while.

Also I found Williams’ performance to be especially phony. It almost came across as a Mother version of the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ rather than someone with a legit mental illness that needs help. She’s the perky one who believes in him instead of a real authentic human being.

Perhaps Spielberg was too close to this material to give it the nuanced script and direction it deserves? But then again most people seem to be loving it so what do I know? I thought I would love it because I love cheesy, wholesome films but I did not.

If you want something sweet and nostalgic from this year I recommend Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood. That worked so much better at creating authentic characters and moments I could relate with despite having grown up in the 80s rather than the 60s. I did enjoy the original score from John Williams in The Fabelmans and I think Sam Rechner and Oakes Fegley were strong as 2 of Sammy’s high school classmates. Other than that, this sentimental journey wasn’t for me.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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STRANGE WORLD: or Is it Strange at All? (Disney Movie 61)

Being an animation junkie there is always a sense of excitement whenever a new film premieres from Walt Disney Animation Studios. This is especially true when it is a new Disney musical like last year’s Encanto. That said, Disney, is one of those studios that tends to telegraph in advance when they are less than enthused about a new film, animated or live action.

Unfortunately this is definitely the case with their new 61st animated classic Strange World and even more unfortunate is their lack of enthusiasm is earned with a thoroughly underwhelming cinematic experience. Instead of being strange and exciting Strange World ends up being dull and mostly annoying. It’s a real disappointment because there is tons of unrealized potential here that director Don Hall failed to monopolize upon because of the weak and predictable script.

Disney reveals new look at stunning new animation Strange World | GamesRadar+
Let’s start out with the positives of Strange World. Like any Disney animated film the world building and animation is beautiful. I loved the colors and the 2D 1940s adventure reel style in the introduction.

I also thought the voice acting was fine, if unmemorable, and the dog Legend was very cute. The lgtbq representation is better executed than any previous Disney film, and I appreciate it being done well. However, the movie still has to be good around that representation and this just isn’t.

The problem is the very pedestrian script and the unlikable characters. We are supposedly following a family named the Clades as they explore a new “strange” land. Unfortunately the big reveal of what this land is made of is completely obvious from the beginning so it’s not that strange or new to film. We’ve seen films exploring this particular type of world in many other films and like I said it’s clear what it is from the first time we see the floating bridge they walk on we see in the trailers (trying hard not to spoil the reveal.)

Disney's new animated movie Strange World gets a first trailer - Polygon

We have 3 generations of Clades voiced by Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal and Jaboukie Young-White, and they do almost nothing but argue the entire picture, and that’s just not what I want to see from my animated family films. Literally the most exciting part about this film is when they all get stuck in a closet and the dog has to help them out. That’s not great for a movie called Strange World.

I know animated films are hard to make and that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this film but in the era of Into the Spiderverse and GDT’s Pinocchio you have to do better. It’s no surprise Strange World received the lowest Cinemascore of any Disney film ever. It’s not interesting or enchanting and the characters bickering the whole time makes for a thoroughly unpleasant experience. If you want my advice I say wait for Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (which is amazing) and watch this on Disney Plus or just watch Encanto for the 30th time with your family. This is certainly not a world I recommend. If you need an adventure honestly Atlantis or Treasure Planet, with their flaws, are better than this.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Blind Spot 83: THE LOST BOYS

I’m not sure what inspired me to put the 1987 vampire flick The Lost Boys on my Blind Spot list this year. I think I have just been trying to go out of my comfort zone lately and it seemed like an approachable horror film I could try out. Now that I have seen it…I’m so glad I selected it! What an entertaining, enjoyable film, and really not that scary at all.

The Lost Boys is about a teen named Michael (Jason Patric who is so dreamy in this role!) who moves with his brother and mother to a beach town called Santa Clara. While there they become involved with a group of teen hoodlums that turn out to be a vampire gang. In this version of vampires you can be kind of a vampire, and a full fledged immortal vampire.

Kiefer Sutherland plays David the leader of the vampires and he and his friends know how to rock an 80s mullet. Director Joel Schumacher imbeds just enough camp to keep things engaging without going into the full-fledged silliness of his Batman movies of the 90s. These are definitely vampires that belong in an 80s hair metal band but again not complete caricatures.

I really enjoyed Corey Haim as Michael’s brother Sam and Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as the Frog brothers who’s special skill is hunting down vampires.

You’d have to be very sensitive to be scared by The Lost Boys. They literally have scenes with bathtubs full of holy water (how did they make so much!) and they certainly got all the local grocery stores garlic supply especially for the ending. Again Schumacher keeps control of all of these details so it made me smile throughout.

If you are like me and need a break from the Christmas movies and awards films give this fun, 80s, teen horror movie a shot. I’m glad I did!

8.5 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Glass Onion’ or How to Really Suck at Telling a Mystery

I know the original Knives Out had its detractors. A lot of my friends said it was ”overrated” or “nothing special” but I had a fun time with it. To me it was light fluffy entertainment well told and since we hadn’t gotten a mystery like that in some time it felt refreshing and new. Now in 2022 we seem to be having the year of the mystery with Death on the Nile, See How They Run, Only Murders in the Building and more to be released. I don’t know if this deluge of new entries in the genre has made me more critical of Glass Onion but let’s just say I went excited and left deflated. As far as viewing experiences go this supposed mystery is one of the worst ones I’ve had all year and one of the only times in a theater in the last few years I’ve been actively annoyed by what I’m watching. I know many seem to be enjoying Glass Onion but I thought it was terrible in just about every way.

Daniel Craig comes back to this sequel as detective Benoit Blanc but the rest of the cast is new. They have all been invited to a billionaire’s mansion on a private island to participate in a murder mystery party game. On paper this should be a fun setup for a mystery. They even make illusions to the board game Clue and the classic 1985 film it helped inspire.

The problem is the terrible script. Each scene is nothing but one exposition dump after another trying to make obvious revelations sound revelatory when we can all see them coming a mile away. I grew so bored listening to these bland people drone on and on about this Miles Bron guy and the supposed shenanigans happening around him. Neither the clues or the people were interesting or compelling, and I found myself getting both annoyed and bored as I watched. I even took a bathroom break because I was so disengaged I needed a break.

The characters also don’t help with each actor mugging it up before the camera especially Edward Norton as a Elon Musk-style tech billionaire. At least in the first one Ana de Armas’ character had some mystery to her, some allure we didn’t understand. In this Janelle Monae’s character is supposed to be the layered one we are rooting for but everything with her is so convoluted and takes forever to explain, that I lost interest. It takes an hour for any murders to happen and that’s a problem in a murder mystery!

Blanc doesn’t even solve the case in this film. He pushes someone else to solve it but that ended up giving us nothing but exposition from our lead character. The ending is meant to be clever, but I rolled my eyes hoping it would all be over soon. It wasn’t soon enough if you ask me.

So if you want an annoying, unending experience of a movie check out Glass Onion. Maybe it will be just your cup of tea? As for me, I’m glad it’s done and I can move on to something of quality to watch. It honestly felt like I was watching a bunch of famous people take a vacation in Greece and that’s not my idea of a good time. No thanks.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘GDT’s PINOCCHIO’ or Vindication for Our Wooden Boy

Anyone who has been following my content knows how much I disliked the recent Disney remake of their animated classic Pinocchio. It honestly made me sick and disgusted the studio could put out something so badly made. So let’s just say Pinocchio needed a little bit of a refurbishment and since this is the year of Pinocchio we didn’t have to wait long to get a vastly superior version from director Guillermo del Toro.

This version is done using stop motion animation and it is a fresh exciting new take on a classic story, coming from a master storyteller like del Toro. To begin with the animation is absolutely outstanding and mesmerizing. Unlike the recent Wendell & Wild, which I found leaned on CG too much, this stop motion has the wonder and charm of feeling like wooden puppets (which they are) moving through this unique world. The amount of time it must have taken to get multiple elements in each frame moving is awe inspiring. For example, Geppetto has a full beard that seamlessly moves as he travels through a scene.

The story to this Pinocchio is quite different than the Disney animated classic so go in knowing that’s the case. It deals with themes of grief, loss, war, religion in ways the original never touches on. They also completely eliminate Pleasure Island in favor of a long section where Pinocchio is a soldier at war (this section could be trimmed down a little). They also completely change the Blue Fairy into Spazzatura, a gatekeeping magical fairy who guards the heavens from immortals like Pinocchio.


I also didn’t realize this version of Pinocchio has new original songs. While none of them by Alexandre Desplat are particularly memorable they are sweet and endearing.

In the grand tradition of Pinocchio I am not sure how kid-friendly this version of the story is. Like I said, it covers some pretty grown-up material. I’m actually surprised it got away with a PG rating. If you do see it with your kids make sure to have a good conversation with them about war, religion and how we treat people who look different than ourselves. Who knows its darker themes could lead to a great family moment?

The voice acting is all excellent including Ewan McGregor, Swinton, Ron Perlman and more. I loved the character design and how they didn’t feel a need to copy the animated classic but just did their own thing.

If I was going to give any critiques, the war section goes on too long and feels a little repetitive and is too downbeat for this kind of film. I worry a lot of kids will be bored by the serious themes of the film but then again that has always been the case with Pinocchio, so this is no different. When Geppetto calls Pinocchio a burden it is very intense and emotionally grueling.

Fortunately GDT’s Pinocchio is getting a short release in the theater and if you have a chance to see it on the big screen I highly recommend it. If not, make sure to check it out on Netflix Dec 9th.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Decision to Leave, Falling for Christmas, Spirited, The Menu, Weird: The Al Yancovic Story)

Hey everyone! It’s time to get you caught up on all the movies I’ve been seeing lately! I wish I had time to write long posts on all of these movies but I don’t. Make sure you check out my hard work at Hallmarkies Podcast where we are covering all things Christmas including lots of fun interviews and recaps.

So let’s get started:

Decision to Leave


Decision to Leave by director Park Chan-wook is one of the most impeccably made movies I’ve seen in 2022. And it’s one I think on a second and third watch I could easily go from liking to loving. There’s a lot going on and with the subtitles I struggled a little bit to keep up with everything on a first watch (I was also admittedly a little tired so that didn’t help).

Nevertheless I still really enjoyed this ‘neo-noir romantic mystery.’ Recently I watched the classic Double Indemnity for my AFI Passions Project for my patrons (check it out! You’ll enjoy it and would help me so much) and Decision to Leave reminded me a lot of that classic film. Both are about detectives that get into toxic relationships and both having that heavy noir atmosphere that works so well.

Definitely if you want to see one of the most beautifully made film of 2022 don’t miss Decision to Leave.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Falling for Christmas


If you need a break from the arthouse flicks we have a new Christmas movie from Netflix (which we are covering on the podcast this week) entitled Falling for Christmas starring Lindsay Lohan and Chord Overstreet. This movie is pretty simple. It’s a winter-themed remake of Overboard without some of that movie’s problematic elements.

Lohan plays an heiress who looses her memory and is taken in by handsome lodge owner Overstreet. Obviously as host of Hallmarkies Podcast I’m a fan of these kind of Christmas movies but that doesn’t mean I give them all a pass (see the A California Christmas movies for proof of that.)

Fortunately Falling for Christmas has all the elements I need to make a cozy holiday film work. The stars have chemistry, the silly antics work and the whole thing brings all the feels. I particularly liked any scenes with her over-the-top boyfriend Tad (George Young). The movie is a bit over-stuffed at times bringing in elements from Overboard, It’s a Wonderful Life, and a million other holiday films but it’s all done with such cheerfulness it worked for me. If you like these films you’ll enjoy it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story


People are going to end up in 2 camps about Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. You are either going to appreciate the risks it takes and find it refreshing or you are like me and find it more grating and annoying than brilliant. I say that fully admitting to not being a hard-core Weird Al fan. I admire his talent and I’ve enjoyed some of his song parodies but I am not a fangirl by any means.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Al in the movie and he gives it his all in a fun performance but the approach they take is to parody the biopic genre instead of giving us any kind of true story (they admit that in the intro to the film). The problem with this approach is the script just isn’t funny and the jokes become so repetitive, which is brutal when you aren’t laughing at them to begin with.

I can see why Weird will have an audience. I simply grew tired of it quickly and was ready for it to be over. It is free to watch on Roku if you want to give it a try but I can’t say I recommend it.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spirited


Anyone who has followed this site knows I am a big fan of A Christmas Carol as a story and have reviewed many different versions of it over the years (see Scrooge Month). I also love the music of Benj Pasek and ‎Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman etc). So in so many ways the film Spirited was designed to please me as a viewer…and fortunately it did just that!

‎In the film Will Ferrell plays the Ghost of Christmas Present who is assigned a new ‘unredeemable’ patient played by Ryan Reynolds who fits your classic Scrooge archetype. However, as they go about their journey together things don’t play out as planned and we flip back and forth between Ferrell’s and Reynolds past.

Ferrell and Reynolds have terrific chemistry but the main reason to see this is the songs. If you don’t like Pasek and Paul’s music you won’t like this but I loved all the musical sequences (and there are a lot of them) and the incredible choreography and production values! It was a blast.

The story in Spirited is definitely overstuffed and gets too convoluted for its own good but this bright and bubbly musical is just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit this season. It has its flaws but still one of my favorite movies of 2022. (There was also a really good take on A Christmas Carol by Hallmark this year called The Ghost of Christmas Always. Check that one out also!)

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Menu


Our final film on this post is horror/thriller by director Mark Mylod called The Menu. I’ve been trying to push myself with horror this year and this is definitely one of the most squeamish ones I’ve seen so far! It’s very effective at what it does but buyer beware it definitely will make you squirm in your seat.

It probably helps I’m a big food network/foodie culture fan so a lot of the dark humor in the film works. I wish they had made the ending a little bit less cynical and more triumphant but I say that as an outsider of this particular genre. Fans of dark humor horror will probably love the ending. It could have used a touch more humanity for my taste but who knows.

Ralph Fiennes plays a chef who brings a group of special diners to have a special meal that gets more grisly with each course. Anya Taylor-Joy is roped into attending the meal at the last minute by Nicholas Hoult and she is our main protagonist for the story. All the acting is excellent in the film and I especially liked Janet McTeer as snobby food critic invited to the event.

Despite my not loving the ending the script for The Menu is very well done and it builds tension exceptionally well. If you like horror you’ll love this movie. It’s surprising, gross, and entertaining all at the same time.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ or How to Say Goodbye to a King

There are so many factors going against the latest installment in the MCU, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever that it’s remarkable it works as well as it does. Even without star Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing in 2020, following up the beloved original which received a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars would have been no small feet. Rewriting the script to appropriately acknowledge the tragedy naturally made it even more difficult. Fortunately, while not perfect, the folks at Marvel have presented us with a beautiful story about how we overcome the grief life provides and accept the mantle of leadership when it is asked of us. Black Panther 2 release date & trailer - Geeky Gadgets

One of the best things about the original Black Panther is the clear motivations for the characters. We understand why Kilmonger wants Wakanda to be more brazen and bold in eliminating hatful governments from the world, but we also understand why T’Challa and his Father want to remain neutral to evil and protect the vibranium and other resources in their land.

Now with T’Challa’s passing the nation is reeling with grief while at the same time trying to figure out what is the best step forward. I’ve heard some call this “woke” or “political”, which I find confusing. Of course it’s political. It’s about the leader of a nation- a political role. At the beginning of the film T’Challa’s Mother and successor Queen Ramonda speaks at the UN to try and point out the hypocrisy of the many nation-states who demand action from Wakanda while stealing the resources and people of poorer nations.

One such example is a nation of merpeople led by a classic Marvel villain Namor (Tenoch Huerta, who is great in the role) who is trying to defend his nation, Talokan, from these marauders and thieves. Like Kilmonger he sees Wakanda as an enemy of change- an isolationist country that refuses to stand up to these powerful forces trying to take away his land. They clash and it forces young Shuri (T’Challa’s sister) to decide what kind of leader she wants to be.

All of this works and is a compelling story with good acting. I particularly enjoyed the first and third act of the film and the emotional gravitas director Ryan Coogler and the actors bring to the screen. The music is also very moving and well done by Ludwig Göransson, returning from his Oscar winning score from the first film.

That said, there are some issues with the film. I did feel like some of the cinematography was dark and difficult to make out what was being seen. I actually don’t love our local IMAX and so I figured it had to do with my particular screen but I’m hearing that others experienced this too so it seems like a problem.

Also there are times the screenplay gets a bit muddled particularly in the 2nd act. There are a lot of plotlines going on and some are hard to follow especially anything with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Martin Freeman. Lupita Nyong’o is absolutely gorgeous in her scenes but they felt like more a part of the wider MCU building than for the story of Wakanda Forever. Dominque Thorne is introduced as Riri Williams/Ironheart and while I enjoyed her performance it also felt wedged in to serve the overall MCU and not this particular movie itself.

I loved any scene with Danai Gurira as Okoye. She’s rapidly turning into one of my favorite characters in the MCU and I get excited whenever she turns up whether it be in anything from  Avengers: Endgame to the What If series. Angela Bassett is excellent and Letitia Wright is outstanding as Shuri who has to grieve and make important decisions in the movie and I completely bought her character transformation by the end- literal and figurative.

It is these character transformations which will determine what you get out of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. If you need it to be a perfect movie than you’ll be disappointed. However, if you want an emotional journey for characters a lot of us have grown to care about than it more than suffices. It’s strengths certainly make up for its flaws.

There is a mid-credits scene but no post-credits, and there is also a surprise cameo I really loved but won’t spoil for you. Enjoy!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

 

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