Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The first Black Panther movie was a critical and box office beast. But, more so, it was a cultural phenomenon. It showed that a movie with that many Black actors, actresses and people on the other side of the camera could be a viable crossover success and it fueled more than a few other opportunities for more diversity in the Hollywood blockbuster world. It was already a massive undertaking for director Ryan Coogler and crew, to take on the challenge of trying to continue a series that has so much weight to it and live up to the expectations of fans and those deeply affected by it’s impact. Then after tragedy struck and the lead actor,, Chadwick Boseman passed The film had his shadow looming over it to contend with also. How do you replace him? Do you replace him? Will the movie as good? How do you outdo one of Marvel’s best villains in Killmonger? With so many questions everyone was ready for some answers
The newest chapter in one of Marvel’s most praised films center’s around the world dealing with the sudden death of T’Challa from a mysterious disease. This piece of the story is art imitating the real life of Boseman as very few knew of his private fight with cancer which led to his passing. With the King now, dead and the world now aware of the precious resource of vibranium metal and all of its power we have politicians doing what they are known to do; trying to figure out how to get their hands on the resources of other countries for their benefit. We see a group of mercenaries breaking into a Wakandan facility to steal vibranium and being stopped by Wakandas chief protectors, The Dora Milaje. These mercenaries are brought before a council of representatives from various countries and the now Queen of Wakanda, Ramonda. With these new threats to Wakandas’ safety and secrets the political intrigue that is prevalent in the comic pages of Black Panther is more of a factor in this film. The mad scramble by the World to find and exploit vibranium takes the search in to the deep seas. This is how we introduce Namor into the storyline. As his up to now, unknown people of Talokan have vibranium as well, he is not so keen to have people in the oceans searching as it’ll lead to the world finding his people as well. Namor says to Shuri, something to the effect of “people have been exploiting people like us for resources for centuries.” He wants to protect his people much like Wakanda did before opening itself up to the world but, is willing to kill to do so like Killmonger in the previous film. This helps slot Namor into line with the”He’s got a valid point” villains that tend to be more interesting than the generic evil-to-be evil villains we usually get from Marvel movies. I did enjoy the choice of actor Tenoch Huerta as the underwater villain. He adds even more diversity to a cast of talented minority actors. The Mexican actor helps give Namor a new Mayan background for his origin and honestly I believe it adds gravity to his reasoning for wanting to get rid of those who may expose his people to the world as he would know how this story has played out through history.
The acting in this one is some of the best I’ve ever seen in the superhero genre, period. Tenoch Huerta as Namor is forceful and ruthless but, able to show grace and tenderness when around his people and it helps make you feel something other than disdain for the”bad guy” Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda gets far more lines this time around and is impactful during her screen time but, the accent is a bit shaky at times. Not, After Earth, Will and Jaden Smith bad but, not the strongest aspect of her character for sure. Shuri (Leticia Wright) does get to open up and bit more and gets to show more than her snarky side this time out as she grieves her brother and her own weakness. Danai Gurira as Okoye is as good as before but, not much is new in her portrayal of the character. M’Baku is now an ardent ally of the Wakandan people and an advisor to the throne. He’s a bit more light hearted but still as tough as before. Trevor Noah as the AI for Wakandas tech gets way more lines and funny moments this time out too.
One of my primary complaints of the initial film was the crap final fight being too FX heavy and taking me out of the film. This I feel was addressed (because I’m quite certain Ryan Coogler takes my opinions to heart) as the fights in general seemed to be better handled to keep you engaged throughout. The final confrontation in this one was far better than T’Challa vs Killmonger. Still, using VFX but, not focusing on it for massive periods helped ground the shots in relative reality. The film itself is better than the first overall, in acting but, slightly weaker in story. The villain is as strong as Killmonger which keeps with a great tradition I hope continues in the next part in the series. This film is truly one of Marvel’s best. In story, acting, and introducing new characters (Namor and RiRi Willaims). This movie was fitting and loving done tribute to Chadwick Boseman and afantastic way to move the MCU and the Black Panther series in to the future.I know I said this one is better than the last and I gave that one a 5 out of 5 but, hindsight and all that a revised review I give the first film a 3.5 and give Wakanda Forever a 4.5 out of 5.
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
‘Mortal Kombat Legends Snow Blind’: The ice age of the soul
Spoilers hide in snow too!
Led by King Kano, the Black Dragon gang goes around terrorizing the wastelands of an already-defeated Earthrealm, enough to garner the attention of a very-retired Kuai Liang and a new warrior on the scene, an overconfident bravo known as Kenshi Takahashi (Manny Jacinto).
The entire story is set in the wastelands, with simple farming towns and markets so ready to be intimidated and then outright slaughtered if they fail to obey King Kano’s oh so generous offer to join his Black Dragon gang. Led by three ringleaders right out of Mad Max territory – Kabal (Keith Silverstein), Kobra (Yuri Lowenthal) and Kira (Courtenay Taylor) – the Black Dragon mercenaries take great delight in their merciless takeover of town after town, until they finally suffer an ignominious defeat at the hands of one who simply won’t kneel, Kenshi himself. And nothing would do but to come back to wreak revenge on Kenshi, aided by a Mortal Kombat-style monster known as Tremor (Imari Williams), and a much-diminished Shang Tsung (Artt Butler), now reduced to King Kano’s pet sorcerer.
Meanwhile, after a montage of monotonous simplicity on the solo farm of Kuai Liang (Ron Yuan) and a robbery of his hard-earned vegetables by our rapacious trio, the market town he sells at is in utter fear of the Black Dragon’s return, and of course it’s all Kenshi’s fault. Kuai Liang still, still, hasn’t fought back at all, matter of fact he’s been reticent to the point of silence, even while enduring beatings and humiliations. But we know, those of us familiar with Mortal Kombat and the Mortal Kombat Legends movies especially, and we’re also reminded via Kuai Liang suffering nightmarish flashbacks, that Sub-Zero’s incredible ice powers can, and have, leveled entire cities and whole armies of enemies, so perhaps his reluctance to rain an ice age on his enemies is mildly understandable.
So Kenshi Takahashi is a bravo, the self-proclaimed strongest fighter in the world, and yes, just got his arrogant little booty put through the ringer by Tremor. One sound defeat and he’s ready to toss in the proverbial towel, only to be found by a terribly sympathetic Shang Tsung, who leads him to a hidden place with a Well of Souls (such names never bode well), to get the power back to defeat his enemies and reclaim his strongest fighter in the world title. Surprising absolutely no one, Shang Tsung betrays Kenshi afresh, uncaring at his being blinded by his ancestors spirits apparently, intent on only stealing enough power to defeat King Kano. Left shattered and sightless, armed only with a magical sword that allows him to kind-of see, Kenshi literally drags himself away, and collapses on the outskirts of a particular solo farm, held by a particularly reserved not-farmer.
Elsewhere, Shang Tsung is now a-brimming with soul power and planning to lay waste to those Black Dragon baddies and especially King Kano (David Wenham), ambitious to the point of lunacy, borne on dreams of former glory. Thus commences a very Mortal Kombat style fight, where King Kano subjects Shang Tsung to a ranting diatribe about having done all this before and his lack of imagination will lead to his inevitable defeat, yet again. Despite the serious damage Kano does take he still manages to win, and we begin to wonder how the hell that actually happened, and what Kano meant by going through this nonsense, yet again.
Back on the farm, a pathetic Kenshi and a reluctant Kui Liang engage in some verbal soul-baring and come to the conclusion that even a little training would do Kenshi some good, it can’t harm him any more than he already is, right? Other than the humiliation of chasing farm chickens, of course. But while they romp a training montage that I’m guessing takes at least a few weeks, Black Dragon and King Kano are still out there, further consolidating his Kingdom through wholesale slaughter. And after the market town Kui Liang frequents is destroyed, he and his unbowed protégé decide to take the fight to Kano and his goons, over there in the unimaginatively-named K-Town, the seat of his Kingdom.
Despite being perfectly capable of laying waste to K-Town in a rather biblical fashion, Kui Liang decides to call in the marker he has with another beloved and infamous Mortal Kombat character, one who’s been languishing in a hellish afterlife since the events of the former Mortal Kombat Legends movie Scorpion’s Revenge, he was once called Hanzo but has since dubbed himself Scorpion (Patrick Seitz). And between the two of them, a newly-determined Kenshi and his soul-blade Sento, and other small if loyal extras who try to help, it’s time for a final Mortal Kombat with King Kano!
And that’s actually literally the whole problem, how this whole defeated Earthrealm business began in the first place, with time. Not the erosion of casual neglect and cheerful genocide that the Mortal Kombat Emperors and other villains are famous for, no, this is a much more simple and even idiotic explanation, that makes perfect sense when you think about it, given that the character Kano is far from a genius, wizard, or even the finest warrior in Mortal Kombat. (Fight me on it; he’s not.)
What happens in the final after all that Kombat, given Kenshi’s new mission and resolve, and the promises Kui Liang made to Hanzo and to himself, is a very Mortal Kombat style ending. Which is to say, sort-of-kind-of-not-really resolved, and we know we’ll see our beloved Kombatants in another adventure, likely featuring at least one spine-ripping moment!
Intensely violent, horrifically gross but really if you don’t already know the level of gore in Mortal Kombat from the beloved video games still on-going what are you even doing here, Snow Blind also has tons of courage and morals, valor from unexpected sources, and an underlying message of faith in oneself that anyone can appreciate.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind comes out from Warner Bros Home Entertainment digital retailers on Oct. 9th, and out on Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra on Oct. 11th 2022!