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Take Two: Black Panther Raises the Bar at Marvel

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Marvel’s newest movie, Black Panther, is many things at once. It’s the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a series of interconnected movies (and related TV series plus other media) that began with Iron Man in 2008 and has generated over thirteen billion dollars at the global box office (making it the most successful film franchise in history). But Black Panther is more than just a continuation of existing stories. It’s unlike any other superhero movie before it. In short, it is the blackest superhero movie ever made, and it depicts blackness in ways that no Hollywood movie before it has ever done.

For those who do not know the character, the Black Panther is the superhero alter-ego of King T’Challa of Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa. As much as T’Challa himself, Wakanda is the star of the movie, a fully-realized vision of an Africa that never was: never colonized by Europeans, never stripped of its resources, never subjugated. Not only is Wakanda independent and free, it is wealthy and extremely advanced thanks to deposits of a metal known as Vibranium. Technology in Wakanda isn’t just twenty-first century, it’s hundreds of years beyond that. To protect its people and its resources from outside encroachment, Wakanda cloaks itself behind elaborate holograms. The world at large sees another “Third-World” country with jungles, farmers and “cool textiles.” In reality, Wakanda is like a Star Trek planet founded by Africans.

The plot of the movie focuses on Wakanda’s status as a hidden jewel of wealth and technology, and whether Wakanda can or even should remain shrouded from the outside world. That question isn’t treated glibly, nor is it divorced from the history of the fallen world in which we actually live (as opposed to the Afro-futurist ideal of Wakanda). It plays out as a power struggle between different tribes and between different branches of the royal family. It includes plenty of action, but that action is driven by ideas and ideals to an extent that none of the other MCU films have been.

Co-written and directed by a black man, and starring a cast that is almost entirely black (and which spans the globe by including Americans, Brits, and Africans), Black Panther shows us sights we’ve never seen in a Hollywood movie, from the fierce female warriors sworn to protect Wakanda to the armored rhinos that charge into battle to the hidden city full of levitating trains, spaceships, holograms, nano-suits, magical herbs and, yes, really cool textiles. Out of all of the Marvel movies, this is the first one that will NOT give you the feeling that “we’ve been here before.” We haven’t. This is something new, fresh and exciting. It is optimistic, joyful, and beautifully, wonderfully black.

If Black Panther succeeds at the global box-office, which the early signs point to it doing, it has the potential to radically change the playing field in the movie industry. No other film of this scale has ever had this many people of color involved in its creation. No other tent pole movie has ever had a story in which white people were, at most, incidental. No, they aren’t excluded from the film, nor is it even slightly “anti-white” (though it is most assuredly anti-colonialist). They just aren’t the focus of the plot. This movie may finally stand as the irrefutable proof that they don’t always NEED to be the docs point; that fantasy, escapism, excitement and heroism can and should come in many guises, and show many hues. The previous MCU films have almost all been good, or at the very least thoroughly competent (hello, Ant Man). Black Panther is the first MCU film that truly MATTERS.

Written by: Wayne Allen Jones

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Caesar’s Reign Comes To The Big Screen With New Trailer For Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes

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Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is directed by Wes Ball (the “Maze Runner” trilogy) and stars Owen Teague (“IT”), Freya Allan (“The Witcher”), Kevin Durand (“Locke & Key”), Peter Macon (“Shameless”), and William H. Macy (“Fargo”). The screenplay is by Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”) and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) and Patrick Aison (“Prey”), based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, and the producers are Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick, Jr., p.g.a. (“The Maze Runner”), Rick Jaffa, p.g.a., Amanda Silver, p.g.a., Jason Reed, p.g.a. (“Mulan”), with Peter Chernin (the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy) and Jenno Topping (“Ford v. Ferrari”) serving as executive producers.

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Masterchef Is Back! For Halo Season 2

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A quick recap – Halo is set in a war-torn 26th century, where humanity led by the United Nations Space Command or UNSC and their supersoldiers known as Spartans, fights against the onslaught of the alien conglomerate known as the Covenant. The full dust-up of Halo Season 1, can be found here. Onward into the introduction of Halo Season 2!

It’s been six months since the forced separation of Spartan Masterchief John (Pablo Schreiber) and Cortana (Jen Taylor), and the Silver Team has been sent on a mission to evacuate residents of the planet Sanctuary before the Covenant glasses the whole thing. This comes with its own set of challenges, given the resistance of the planet’s inhabitants, and it doesn’t help that Masterchef starts seeing things right in the middle of trying to save some marines. Or is he? Those energy swords the squad of Elites were carrying looked worryingly real.

Back on Reach, the Silver Team is entirely dismayed to learn they have a brand new Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) representative come in as the new boss, to finally replace the traitorous Halsey, James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan). And of course, Ackerson manages to immediately get under Masterchief’s skin, by not only expressing far too much interest in John’s relationship with Cortana but also apparently disbelieving of John’s report of his encounters on Sanctuary. That just means Masterchief has to go around, if not entirely over, Ackerson’s head.

Elsewhere, Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) is trolling the slave markets in his boredom, only to stumble across a soon-to-be indentured servant who claims he knows the whereabouts of the UNSC’s most hunted human, Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone). That should bring a huge bounty, but really, Soren should’ve known better by now.

Halo Season 2 premieres Thursday, February 8th, 2024, and will continue to air every Thursday, only on Paramount+!

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Reborn as a Vending Machine I Now Wander the Dungeon’: I look forward to your next use!  

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If the title of this delightful little isekai anime entry didn’t give it all away, our nameless protagonist is a vending machine fanatic who, after being killed by a vending machine, gets reincarnated in another fantasy-style world as one! 

Japan has a tendency to give birth to all sorts of crazed fads that can last for decades, and no one does better when it comes to the vending machine industry, too. These days there are vending machines that will serve you sushi you can actually eat, hot pizza in the box, wagyu steaks, freshly popped popcorn, and a whole mind-boggling array of tasty treats, and other non-edible but still useful items! Umbrellas! Condoms! Oxygen masks, sterile bandages, shoes, and emergency clothing! Actually, far more things that we use on an everyday basis, could be considered as technically a vending machine, and the anime explores that beautifully. Into the world of vending machine fanaticism, we dive! 

So our poor protagonist never gave a name, and inevitably when he’s discovered by his first official friend the starving hunter Lammis, she dubs him “Boxxo”. Like many isekai that seem to take inspiration from video games and RPGs, Boxxo discovers he ways he can communicate, level up his existence, and even evince magic-like powers and attack and defend against monsters and enemies. Though in the beginning, and as an underlying theme throughout the show, Boxxo is primarily concerned with providing unique never-before-tasted-in-this-world food and drink to the amazed folk, human and otherwise. 

Boxxo’s prices are entirely reasonable and hey, he can even choose to give out his wares for free on occasion, so his popularity immediately skyrockets. Lammis with her awkward charm and prodigious strength blessing, introduces Boxxo to other friends of Clearflow Lake Village and associates along the way – Director Bear, an actual bear-monster who’s the head of the Hunters Association; Lammis’ friend Hulemy, the insane genius magic item engineer; the Bearcats Suco, Pell, Short and Mikenne, cheerful hunters with astronomic appetites; even suspicious Kerioyl, leader of the Menagerie of Fools party. 

The show approaches the practicality and versatility of the true vending machine with amusement, but also with the love true fans display for things they’re passionate about. Certainly, things like a brothel needing a condom vending machine exist in our world, but to toss them into a potentially more innocent other-world isekai is a welcome and often hilarious treat. The show celebrates the cheerful idiocy and devotion of the fans to their chosen fandom, in this case, yes vending machines, but also the spirit of the lonely otaku finally finding their Tribe! 

Pay your coins to watch ‘Reborn as a Vending Machine’ on Crunchyroll now! 

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