BLACK PANTHER – REVIEW – Ryan Coogler’s new film is very good.

The new Marvel film Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler is pretty good. There’s really no way to disentangle the movie from the phenomenon that it has become and, actually, why would you want to? It’s the first major black superhero movie – if you don’t count Blade, Blade II, Hancock, Blade III, Cat Woman and Meteor Man. The movie blew up at the box office and critical success and provided a generation of young kids with a role model and hero that looks like them for once.

And the film is very good. I’ve loved Chadwick Boseman since the criminally under-rated Get On Up. Here, he evinces a cool charisma as King T’Challa AKA Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan makes a convincing villain and Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira are each funny, smart and strong. The location of Wakanda is well realized, bringing Afrofuturism to the screen in a big way.

Does the film have problems? Yep. A few. The action wasn’t great. The casino fight seemed particularly difficult to follow. And the three tier showdown at the end, especially guy in one colored suit fights guy in identical suit of a different color smacked of formula. Although I like that the film isn’t about the death of the entire universe, the battle for a small hill between a handful of fighters seemed almost ridiculously small. Plus politically, although the film dipped its toe, surely the monarchy idea hampered its more progressive urges. In response to Killmonger’s dangerous revolutionary politics, T’Challa becomes a Bill Gates philanthropist, literally dropping in on the neighborhood and buying up real estate.

With the success of Wonder Woman and now Black Panther, studios hopefully will follow up with even more diversity. This can only be a good thing.

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HOLLYWOOD – The new trailer to Captain America: Civil War dropped and with it the first sight of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, but what did we really learn.

The Studio Exec FACT Squad is currently being ripped asunder (which is not good) by a civil war about which side to support on Captain America: Civil War, so we sent both halves of the warring squad into battle to find out five FACTS about the new film from watching the trailer once on a phone with a poor Wi-Fi connection.

1. It is historically inaccurate. Although the characters wear ‘costumes’ they are not correct to the period from 1861-1865 in which the Civil War took place.

2. Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner,Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Frank Grillo, Tom Holland, William Hurt, and Daniel Brühl are in it

3. Tony Stark loves Captain America’s perfect teeth but there’s an edge there.

4. New York, Washington and Skikky-lovia have been destroyed. Everyone looks serious, including William Hurt who is playing Michael Douglas, Robert Redford and Jeff Bridges.

5. Black Panther isn’t actually a panther. And Spider-Man isn’t actually a Spider.

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HOLLYWOOD -The 9,593,421 population of Sweden were confirmed to all have roles in the upcoming Avengers movie, Avengers Civil War.

The entire Swedish population will join Paul Rudd, Martin Freeman, Daniel Bruhl, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, Frank Grillo, William Hurt and Don Cheadle in Avengers Civil War, the third movie in the sequence. The Russo brothers popped in to the Studio Exec bungalow to explain EXCLUSIVELY their thinking behind the move.

Anthony Russo: We want this movie to have a genuinely epic scale. Civil War! You know it gives you that feeling of size, of magnificent hugeness. In the past Avengers movies have concentrated on teams and cities, but now we’re into armies and nations. So Sweden seemed like the perfect choice. They speak really good English and we picked up some nice tax breaks.

But when you say cast, you mean extras, right? I mean nine million people here.

Joe Russo: Well, the positive thing is they come with their own infrastructure and a system of government. Ha ha! No, but seriously, we are talking about speaking roles here. Not just what we used to call Background Artists.

That’s crazy!

AR: Is it? Terrence Malick used the entire population of France to make To the Wonder.

No he didn’t.

JR: Did so! But in the end he cut most of them. To their immense relief, it has to be said, once they saw the movie.

Avengers: Civil War will be released in 2016.


GET ON UP: REVIEW – Mr. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, the Prime Minister of Funk, gets the kind of musical biopic of which he would have heartily approved.

Eschewing the Hallmark prestige approach to biography of the likes of Ray and Walk the Line, Get On Up starts with a crack-high shotgun toting James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) shuffling into one of his buildings to complain someone’s done a number two in his commode. From that point on the film jumps about in an eclectic, electric and entertaining way, taking as its main inspiration Brown’s own hard hitting and heavy super funk. Sure we see Brown’s no name, dirt poor beginnings. The hunger, abuse and deprivation. But there are no straight lines here, narratively and we leap back and forth, on a trip to Vietnam, a TV show supporting the Rolling Stones and back again to an unconventional rise to fame by a boy who never lets the poverty and suffering infringe on his epic quest to reinvent himself and the world with him.

Boseman is amazing. His performance as Brown is of an individual who is always on stage – insisting on a mannered formality and a third person identification that becomes epic. He struts around as if even when he isn’t on stage the music is in his bones, in his limbs. Likewise his voice is of a man who’s only a yelp or a whisper away from a song. It is testament to Boseman’s prowess as an actor that we manage to glimpse occasionally the interior of a man who has otherwise closed himself off almost entirely. His closest collaborator is Bobby Byrd, played by Nelsan Ellis, the man who bails Brown from jail and gets him on the Chitlin circuit of blues music. In fact, if you want to grasp for some kind of narrative structure, the film could be understood as a troubled bromance, between Brown’s loud genius and Byrd’s quiet enabler.

Winter’s Bone and The Help  director Tate Taylor’s direction is colorful and inspired, with some lovely surreal moments. The music is given ample screen time and the performances are magically transposed to the screen. How this film failed to pick up an actor’s Oscar nomination is already baffling, but the technical aplomb of the movie also deserves some award love. Jez  and John-Henry Butterworth’s screenplay is both eloquent and snappy, full of humor, but also – like its subject – not eschewing the dark side of an essentially troubled man.

Not for a while has the bag seemed so brand new.

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