Movie Review: Black Panther

Black Panther is definitely one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. People have been raving about this film on social media since the announcement of the movie’s release date last year. It premiered this week and so far it has been a smash at the box office. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Black Panther’s story, I will a give little background on it. Black Panther follows the life of T’Challa/Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) who is next to rule the African nation of Wakanda after his father’s death. Wakanda is one of the most technologically advanced nations, but is also one of the most isolated as the people of Wakanda believe that they are better protected when they hide in plain sight. The nation is made up of four different tribes who thrive off the use of Vibranium. 

Wakanda has been a safe haven for the people who live for centuries and has been viewed by the world as a third world country for years, but what the world doesn’t know is that it is one of the most thriving and technologically advanced nations in the world. Things change drastically when a mortal enemy pops up on their radar and kills King T’Chaka so as a result his son, T’Challa is next up for the throne. T’Challa’s biggest obstacle throughout the film is finding his own way as a man and a king. He spent most of his life preparing to fit the mold that his father created during his reign over Wakanda. T’Challa finds out a shocking secret about his father that conflicts with his own personal morals and ethics, which causes him to question what really makes a man a great king?

What makes this film so important is that despite the fact that it is about a fictional African culture and nation it stayed true to portraying black people who wholeheartedly embrace who they are while fighting for what is right. Many of the characters possessed great skills, intellectual abilities, displayed honor, selflessness and strength that wasn’t solely physical. Representation matters especially for black people. It means a lot to see people who look like ourselves portrayed as kings, queens, strong warriors and intelligent people who run an African nation.

I really enjoyed how the film showed that it wasn’t just T’Challa who ran and saved the nation, but it was a collective effort from mostly women who brought just as much to the table if not more. Okoye (Danai Gurira) is the fearless warrior that is apart of the Dora Milaje. She protects T’Challa and fight alongside him. Then, there is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) she is T’Challa’s lover, but her life and purpose is deeper than that. Nakia is native to Wakanda, but spends her time outside of the nation as a spy, warrior and a peacemaker. However, she is devoted to saving her nation when it is threatened. Last but not least, there is Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s teenage sister. Shuri is the brains behind Wakanda’s technological advancement. She created the weapons and gear used throughout the film.

The plot made me sort of made me play devil’s advocate once Michael B. Jordan’s character, Eric Killmonger was introduced. I was able to consider the perceptions of both T’Challa and Killmonger. I saw some good in the “bad” and I saw some bad in the “good.” There was a constant political and moral tug-o-war between what was best for Wakanda versus whether Wakanda should abandon their isolationist policies so that they can help the world with their resources. T’Challa’s only agenda was to protect his nation and preserve their livelihood while his cousin, Eric Killmonger who lived his whole life on the outside radically fought for the underdogs. Killmonger wanted to use Wakanda’s greatest resource, Vibranium to help people around the world and end struggling. 

I was really pleased to see such great black actors in this film like Angela Bassett who played the queen and T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda. Also, Forest Whitaker starred as Zuri an elder statesman and keeper of the heart-shaped herb. It was also really good to see rising stars like Daniel Kaluuya who played W’Kabi. Kaluuya is on the rise since the success of his lead role in the film Get Out. I remember seeing Kaluuya start out on the British series, Skins back in 2007 where he starred in the first two seasons and even wrote three episodes so it’s great to see how far he has come 11 years later. Letitia Wright has really be coming into her own over the past few years. I remember seeing her star in the British street drama, Top Boy, which aired back in 2011. Wright showed up on people’s radar at the end of 2017 when she starred in season four of Black Mirror.

It’s a known fact that black people lack representation in film so now to see black people  embracing African culture and donning African garb in a Marvel Superhero movie has me ecstatic. I can only imagine how children must feel when they see people who look like themselves portrayed as royal superheroes and warriors who fight to save their nation. It was also great to have black director and screenwriter, Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) apart of making Black Panther the greatness that we saw over the weekend. 

One of the really dope things about the film is that the filmmakers had the characters speak Xhosa throughout the film. Xhosa is a Nguni Bantu language with click consonants and one of the official languages of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Xhosa is claimed by 8 million Africans as their mother tongue. I hated the “African” accents the characters spoke with in the film, but I just attributed that to the writers coming up with a fictitious accent for a fictional nation.

Honestly, this movie lived up to my expectations and then some. I will admit I was a little apprehensive because of Marvel’s tendency to produce mediocre superhero movies, but Black Panther did not disappoint at all especially with Ryan Coogler on board. This film has come to the world at such a pivotal time where black people are now being represented a little more in films.

Overall, I was very pleased with this film. The actors were great. The plot was great. I will probably see this movie like five more times within the next couple weeks. I would definitely recommend seeing this movie if you haven’t already.

Movie Review: The Ritual

Netflix recently released their first horror movie of the year. The film is called The Ritual, which is loosely based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Adam Nevill. I watched the trailer for it last month and it definitely drew me in. Horror movies are my favorite so I’m always open to new ones especially when it looks as if it has the potential to be decent.

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Luke, Dom, Phil and Hutch are four college friends that reunite to pay tribute to a friend by taking a trip. The group embarks on a hiking trip in Sweden. One of them gets injured, which slows them down so they mutually decide to take a rest stop until the daylight. As they look for somewhere to rest, they come across a vacant cabin that will accommodate them. As they settle into the cabin, they discover some eerie relics within it as well some odd things surrounding the cabin like a deer cut open and hanging from a tree. Despite everyone being spooked they still decide to spend the night there, but when they wake up they are never the same again.

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I particularly enjoyed how the writers included Norse mythology and tied it into an evil, sacrificial thing. I think it’s always interesting when there’s a little truth to the creepiness. It was mentioned in the film that the evil that is being worshipped is a “jötunn” which is basically Swedish for a God or entity. One of the people that lived in the village where Luke and Dom were held captive explains that she and the people there worship a bastard god-spawn of Loki, but they cannot utter his name. She also says that from worshipping and making sacrifices they are granted an extended life.

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The film initially gave me a Hostel feel in the beginning because the characters’ naiveness felt so familiar. They literally went into the woods with an old fashioned compass and thought that they would make it to the lodge within in a day, but they were already somewhat lost along with the fact that had no clue about the area they were in.

The group’s trip into the wilderness made them face their fears especially the character, Luke. Luke was struggling with his guilt for not intervening in a robbery that could have prevented his late friend’s death. Throughout the duration of the film, he had dreams about it, but I believe that it was the entity preying on his weakness.

The ending disappointed me. As the movie was wrapping up the smoke cleared and it was becoming laughable rather than giving off its initial creepiness. I felt like the ending had much more potential and could have went in any direction, but instead it was just like ehh. I will still say the movie is worth watching. It’s interesting and refreshing to have a new horror movie in Netflix’s catalogue.

Check out the trailer below

My Black History Month TV Show & Movie List

Pariah (2011)

Alike, a 17-year-old girl living in Brooklyn, lives a double life because she has been hiding her sexuality from her overly religious mother and absentee father. She is an aspiring poet who is devoted to her academics, but is struggling to keep up with the façade she puts on for family as she is learning about herself and her sexuality identity.

The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

Jessica is a young black woman who is the embodiment of eccentric and colorful. She is a struggling playwright living in NYC who’s going through a recent breakup and trying to move forward with her life. While dating she finds an unlikely love interest who has her smitten and rethinking some of the things in her life.

Mudbound (2017)

 

Set in 1945 shortly after World War II in rural Mississippi, a time and place where Jim Crow laws were alive and well. The film focuses on the of lives of two families who coexist on the McAllan family’s farmland. Jamie and Ronsel come back home from the war to face the life they left behind.

Fruitvale Station (2013)

22-year-old Oscar Grant was in the process of getting back on his feet to support his family when his life took a turn for the worse. Fruitvale station recounts the days leading up to the night that Oscar Grant was involved in an altercation with police on New Year’s Eve that ultimately ended in tragedy.

She’s Gotta Have It (2017- Present)

Spike’s Lee movie turned TV series is about Nola Darling, a black artist who lives a liberating yet complicated life all while juggling multiple lovers. The series touches many of the current issues that are faced in today’s society especially in the black community.

Fences (2016)

Fences was originally written as a play by playwright, August Wilson in 1985. 30 years later, the  play was transformed into a film that depicted the lives of a black family in Pittsburgh who are battling race, mental illness, infidelity and dysfunction between their relationships.

Dayveon (2017)

Dayveon is struggling to cope with his brother’s death. He spends his days roaming the streets of his rural town in Arkansas. With no real guidance or parental figures in his life, he succumbs to his environment and joins the life of violence.

Insecure (2016- Present)

This series is partially based Issa Rae’s web series, Awkward Black Girl. Issa and Molly are best friends who face their flaws and insecurities head on in a series of uncomfortable situations and encounters. They constantly reflect on their morals and beliefs as they work to overcome hardships in their personal and work lives.

Detroit (2017)

This film goes back in time to 1967 to depict the events that occurred in the Algiers Motel in Detroit, Michigan. During that time, there had been numerous riots in Detroit that had vandalized the city so as a result the city was heavily patrolled especially at night. Two friends decide to stay at a motel for the night instead of attempting to make their way home through the heavily patrolled city. Their night goes awry when they’re hanging out with two white women at the motel and a gun goes off. The film depicts the hours the people in the motel spent being interrogated and beaten by the police for a confession.

13th (2016)

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay takes an in depth look into the history of racial inequality in the United Stated by focusing on the nation’s prisons that are disproportionately filled with African Americans.

12 Years a Slave (2013) 

 

Solomon Northup is a free black man from upstate New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south. Northup endures the cruelty of slavery at the hands of his malicious owner, but also finds kindness as he struggles to maintain his dignity as a slave who was once a free man. His life changes forever during the 12th year when he encounters an abolitionist from Canada.

Selma (2014)

 

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act legally desegregated the South. However, despite the Civil Rights Act many black people still faced discrimination in certain areas, which made it difficult for black people to register to vote. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers embarked on an historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. King and his followers’ effort ultimately led to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Loving (2016)

Loving tells the story of interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving who went up against the Supreme Court in 1967. The two fell in love and married in 1958. They spent most of their lives in Central Point, which is a small town in Virginia. However, in the state of Virginia their interracial marriage was considered illegal and ultimately led to their incarceration at one point. The Loving family temporarily relocates in Washington, D.C., but ultimately tries to find their way back to their hometown. The couple’s strife led to the Supreme Court’s decision of invalidating the prohibition of interracial marriage in the state of Virginia.

Black-ish (2014-Present)

Dre Johnson seems to have it all as he has a great job, a beautiful wife, four kids and a big home in a nice neighborhood, but he starts to questions whether his success as a black man has created some distance between himself and black culture. Dre makes it his mission to create a sense of ethnic identity for his family members that will allow them to honor and acknowledge their identity as black people

Imitation of Life (1959) 

 

Lora Meredith is a single white mother who by chance encounters Annie Johnson, a black widow. Annie eventually becomes the caretaker for Lora’s daughter, Suzie while Lora pursues her dream of being on Broadway. Lora and Annie both face the difficulties of single motherhood. Lora struggles to maintain a relationship with Suzie as she strives for her Broadway career while Annie’s fair skinned daughter struggles with her black identity.

Moonlight (2016)

 

The film is told in three parts that shows Chiron’s life as a youth, an adolescent and as a young adult. Chiron spends most of his life growing up in Liberty City, Miami. Throughout his life, he faces many hardships such as, depression, struggling with his sexual identity all while trying to live with his mother as she battles her drug addiction.

The Butler (2013)

After leaving the South, Cecil Gaines is given the opportunity of a lifetime when he is hired as a butler at the White House. Throughout his thirty years as a butler, Cecil has been able to see history and the inner workings of the Oval Office unfold firsthand during historical events like the Civil Rights Movement. However, his commitment to the first family leads to complications with his family at home which ultimately puts a strain on the relationship he has with his wife and son.

Southside with You (2016)


In 1989, former President Barack Obama was a law student working as a summer associate at law firm in Chicago. Obama tries to win the heart of Michelle Robinson, a young lawyer and his supervisor at the law firm.

Queen Sugar (2016- Present)

Estranged Bordelon siblings, Nova, Charley and Ralph Angel must come together in Louisiana to make decisions in regards to their father’s sugar cane farm after his death. Nova is a journalist and an activist; Charley is the wife and manager of an NBA player while Ralph Angel who was recently released from jail is trying to get his life together for his son. The three siblings who live completely different lives and have experienced different things throughout their lives must put their differences aside for the betterment of their family’s legacy.

Dear White People (2014)

A campus culture war between black students and white students at a predominantly white school arises when the staff of a humor magazine stages an offensive Halloween party where many of the white students in attendance were in blackface. The film explores racial identity from the viewpoint of four black students attending a predominantly white school.

Celia (2015)

Celia tells the story of Afro-Latina music legend, Celia Cruz. The telenovela highlights the beginning of Cruz’s career where she developed her passion for singing in the 1950s along with her recognition as being the most pivotal singer of La Sonora Matancera. It shows how throughout the years, Celia Cruz was able to leave Cuba and conquer Latin music which led to her being one of the most recognized Salsa singers.

How to Get Away with Murder (2014)

Annalise Keating is a brilliant professor of defense law and teaches a course called How to Get Away with Murder. Keating is also a criminal defense attorney. She handpicks a group of students that she considers to be the best and the brightest. The group that handpicks assists her with her cases alongside her employees, Frank and Bonnie. Life changing situations arise that reveal dark secrets and will ultimately test the students’ wit and loyalty.

Chewing Gum (2015)

This British series follows the everyday shenanigans of Tracey Gordon. Tracey is a religious, Beyoncé-obsessed 24-year-old whose unusual and naïve outlook on life always gets her into trouble, but she seems to learn a little about the way the world works as time goes on.

Atlanta (2016)

Up and coming rapper, Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles is trying to find middle ground with street life and real life while developing his rap career. His cousin, Earn has returned to Atlanta and is now his manager. Earn devotes most of his time to getting his cousin’s rap career to the next level. Alfred spends most his time with his right hand man, Darius. When Earn isn’t busy managing his cousin he’s preoccupied with his daughter and his complicated with relationship with her mother, Vanessa who is also his best friend.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story (2017)

 

At just 16 years old, Kalief Browder spent three years in Rikers Island awaiting trial. Browder spent two of those three years in solitary confinement. He was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. The case was never prosecuted and the charges were ultimately dropped. In 2015, Kalief Browder committed suicide two years after his release from jail. The six-part series delves into Browder’s life through first person accounts, archival footage and recreations of key points in his life. The series also includes a wide range of people who are connected to his story.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

In this documentary, Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished back in 1987. In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project that would go unfinished. Baldwin started a book called “Remember This House.” The book was set to be revolutionary and historical. In it he would recall his personal accounts of the lives and ultimately the assassinations of three of his close friends who were Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Daughters of the Dust (1991)

 

Set in 1902, a family of former West African slaves living in the Gullah community of the coastal South Carolina suffers a generational split. The film is narrated by the unborn daughter of Eli and Eula who tells the stories of her ancestors who strive to maintain their family’s legacy and culture in the Gullah community while some want to move onto the mainland for a modern way of life.

 

Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Over the holiday weekend, I went to go see the new Jumanji film. I was a little apprehensive because this film took a different approach to the original fantasy adventure film that was based on a board game.

The original film made its debut in 1995 and was based on the 1981 children’s book of the same name. The film featured stars like the late Robin Williams, David Alan Grier, Kirsten Dunst and more.

Fast forward to 2017, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is set in current day. The nerds and popular kids are put together due to detention, but find themselves working together to free themselves from the video game version of Jumanji.

The film was better than I thought it was going to be. Kevin Hart and Jack Black’s humor complimented the quirkiness of their counterparts. The Rock did pretty good with playing the avatar of a nerdy teen.

One thing that was interesting to me is that the backstory for Jumanji was completely different from the original film. There was no mention of the other characters or the origin. The writers chose to give it a different starting point with a different character who was stuck in the game for 20 years.

It’s definitely worth seeing especially with your family.

TV Series Review: Dark

Dark (2017) is a German Science fiction series that premiered on Netflix last month.

The show is seemingly similar to Stranger Things, but there is no comparison when it comes to the complexities and depth that Dark possesses.

The intricate series follows the lives of the people who grew up together in Winden and how the town is affected after children go between within three time periods. The series bounces between the years 2019, 1986, and 1953. Paying attention is very important when watching this show because there are a lot of key moments that occur, which will link to what transpires in the future/current time. However, there are some questions that are left unanswered.. for now. Dark also gives you a physics lesson on spacetime, black holes, wormholes and other very interesting, nerdy things.

The people in Winden have mostly grown up together, but have no idea have much their lives intertwine beyond being neighbors or classmates. The town possesses a lot of secrets that are kept at a cost. Young Jonas who has recently suffered a loss has now returned to Winden after being away for awhile. What he doesn’t know is now that he has returned he will be forced to deal with the reality and complexities that is now his life.

This show really grabbed my attention from the very start. I haven’t watched any German films or TV series before so I was already interested in seeing how this series would be depicted. I really liked how Dark bounced between time periods it was like you were time traveling with the characters to see key moments from the past and how they shape the future. It was also interesting to see how characters from the future were changing the past and even getting stuck in that particular year. I definitely got confused at times and found myself replaying certain scenes.

Here’s a link to a guide created so that you can follow the characters throughout the time periods as the scenes go back and forth from the younger and older version of themselves. All in all the series was pretty good and I’m excited to see what season 2 of Dark will be

Movie Review: Mudbound 

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Last week, Mudbound premiered in select theaters and streamed on Netflix.

Mudbound is a period drama film directed by Dee Rees and is based on the 2008 novel of the same name. The film features stars like Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan and Garrett Hedlund.

Mudbound is set in 1945 shortly after World War II in rural Mississippi, a time and place where Jim Crow laws were alive and well. The film focuses on the of lives of two families who coexist on the McAllan family’s farmland.

The Jackson’s are a family of sharecroppers who unwillingly welcome the incoming McAllan family members that moved to Mississippi to start a new life. The Jacksons are a family of sharecroppers who struggle to maintain the land they have along with other racial and societal barriers they must deal with. Florence (Mary J. Blige) and Hap (Rob Morgan) Jackson do the best with what little they have so they can raise their children and protect them from the evils of the world. Their eldest son, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) sets off to Europe to fight in WWI. Ronsel sees a side of the world that is unlike anything at home. The way of life and the way black people are received in Europe baffled him which he expressed in his letters that he wrote to his family back in Mississippi.

Then, there is the McAllan family who have come from their Memphis home with the intent to turn the McAllan land into a farm again. Henry (Jason Clarke) drives down with his openly racist father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks), wife, Laura (Carey Mulligan), and their daughters. The land the McAllan’s own is also the same land that the Jackson family sharecrop a portion of.

Two soldiers return to the Mississippi town after fighting in the war. Jamie McAllan returns home to his family as hero who is battling PTSD. Ronsel comes back home a hero like Jamie McAllan, but with less recognition and more racism. An unlikely friendship forms between the soldiers who come from two completely different backgrounds, but share the same mental struggles that the war inflicted upon them. Their friendship isn’t well received by the racists in the town who force Jamie to make a life changing decision in effort to severe their friendship.

Mudbound was heart wrenching and captivating. It touched on the realities of the black war heroes who explored the world and saw what it had to offer besides blatant racism. Moreover, I think that the film embodied the struggles that many black people faced while living in the south. There was scene where Ronsel had just come back home with all of his honorary badges on and was shopping in a local store for his family. As he went to head out the front door, he encountered Pappy McAllan who demanded that he leave out the backdoor and called him a nigger. The sacrifices black people had to make in order to save their lives and stroke the egos of the racist whites is unmeasurable. The McAllans were generally “tolerable” of black people, but they were unnecessarily inconsiderate when it came to the requests that they made of them. Henry requested that Florence come help his sick children in the wee hours of the night and then his wife, Laura asked that she permanently stay to help with the children with no regard to her own family and household. The actors did a great job especially Mary J. Blige she blew me away. I really enjoyed this movie and can’t wait to see what else Dee Rees has in store for the film industry.

Stephen King Brought his Creepy Novella, 1922 to Life on Netflix

I was on Netflix looking for something new to watch and came across Stephen King’s film, 1922. 1922 is kind of a horror/thriller drama that chronicles the life of Wilfred James after he murders his wife, Arlette with help from his son, Henry.

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Wilfred comes off as a simple man who lives on a farm with his wife and son. Arlette has inherited the land that they currently live on from her father who recently died. She expressed to Wilfred that she would like to sell her father’s land and collect the money so that the family can move to Omaha. The family is at odds because they both have opposing views on the fate of the farm. Wilfred is dead set on keeping Arlette’s farm so he conspires to kill her and gets his son to assist him.

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Wilfred’s life after murdering Arlette is basically in shambles figuratively and literally. Everyday he must endure the guilt and hauntings his dead wife. Her death seems to plague the home he once shared with his family along with the crops.

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Wilfred’s life goes downhill really fast even though it initially seemed to be working out. He thought his plan to kill his wife and make it seem as if she had run off without him would be seamless in such a slow and small town. However, awhile, the farm falls apart, the house falls apart, money is low and Henry leaves him behind for a forbidden love. Arlette’s grotesque body followed by a swarm of rats haunts Wilfred by telling him things only a dead woman would know that disturbs him and leaves him miserable wishing to die.

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This movie is the embodiment of creepy, bizarre and depressing.

Initially I expected this be a horror film, but it was more of a thriller to me. There were some spooky moments, but it was more of a thriller with gross scenes. Wilfred and Henry’s lives were never the same after they executed their plan to kill Arlette.