Also known as: X (poster title) Release Date: November 18th, 1992 Directed by: Spike Lee Written by: Arnold Perl, Spike Lee Based on:The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, Alex Haley Music by: Terence Blanchard Cast: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Christopher Plummer, Lonette McKee, Giancarlo Esposito, Wendell Pierce, Roger Guenveur Smith, Debi Mazar, Karen Allen, Peter Boyle, David Patrick Kelly, Mary Alice, Nicholas Turturro, Michael Imperioli, John David Washington, Ossie Davis
Largo International, JVC Entertainment Networks, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Warner Bros., 202 Minutes
“[Witnessing Malcolm’s control over a mob] That’s too much power for one man to have.” – Captain Green
Every great director has their magnum opus and this is Spike Lee’s.
Malcolm X is pretty perfect from top-to-bottom and for a film that is nearly three and a half hours, it mostly moves at a really good pace. I thought that the first act was too drawn out but it takes up less than an hour of running time and the film really finds its groove once Malcolm goes to prison and first encounters the lessons and ideas around The Nation of Islam.
From that point forward, this is a truly exceptional motion picture that is bolstered by the legendary performance of Denzel Washington. In fact, despite him winning the Academy Award for Training Day, I would say that this is the best performance of his career.
Beyond Washington, everyone else in this film is superb from the smallest parts to the largest. There really isn’t a weak link in the entire cast and Lee did a phenomenal job in picking who he did for each role.
This also boasts the best cinematography out of all of Spike Lee’s movies. Sure, he has a stupendous eye and employs wonderful visuals in every film but this felt so genuine and rich. It was like a true time capsule back to the 1940s through 1960s and nothing about it felt staged or inauthentic.
Having read the book, years ago, I’ve always seen this as the most perfect interpretation of it. In fact, if anyone were to try and attempt a Malcolm X biopic in the future, I don’t know how they could really make anything better or even as close to great as this is. As far as I know, it’s never been attempted and frankly, it shouldn’t be.
Watching this, it was hard not having my mind try to compare the incidents and the social climate in the 1960s to today. A lot of people love quoting Malcom X and for good reason. However, I think that a lot of people who cite him don’t fully grasp the context and cherry pick what fits their narrative. I think it’s important to understand the man’s full journey and to see what he went through, what he learned and how he applied all of that to his actions and his message.
Unfortunately, Malcolm was gunned down in the prime of his life and we never got to see how he would’ve continue to evolve and how he would’ve worked together with other black leaders and leaders of all races in the following decades.
Malcolm’s death was an absolute tragedy but his life is certainly worth knowing and celebrating. With that, this film is really special in how it captured the man, his personal struggles and growth. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington made a biographical picture that is as good as they get.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: Spike Lee’s other films of the late ’80s and into the ’90s.
Also known as: M:I-6, Mission: Impossible VI (alternative titles) Release Date: July 12th, 2018 (Paris premiere) Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie Written by: Christopher McQuarrie Based on:Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller Music by: Lorne Balfe Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Vanessa Kirby, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Ross O’Hennessy, Wolf Blitzer (cameo)
“There cannot be peace without first a great suffering. The greater the suffering, the greater the peace. The end you’ve always feared… is coming. It’s coming, and the blood will be on your hands.” – Solomon Lane
These movies are so damn good! Well, at least from the third one forward. I’m still sour about my initial experience with M:I-2 from twenty years ago.
Anyway, this one is a hair below the previous chapter but it’s still a near perfect, spy thriller masterpiece.
There is really only one negative with this film and that’s the exclusion of Jeremy Renner. However, Renner had become too busy with his work as Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so his absence is understandable. Also, adding Henry Cavill to the cast was a massive plus, even if he doesn’t survive beyond this chapter… or so, one would assume.
Other than Renner, this brings back everyone from the previous film, as well as bringing back Michelle Monaghan in a role that was thankfully bigger than just an uncredited cameo like in the fourth movie.
This one also adds in Angela Bassett as the CIA director, who is a secondary antagonist until she sees the light and learns to trust America’s greatest hero, Ethan Hunt. We’re also introduced to a new character, played by Vanessa Kirby, who I sincerely hope returns in future films. Not just because she’s f’n gorgeous but because her character is really damn interesting, badass and I’d just like to see her get to develop more, as they keep pumping out these movies because Tom Cruise is ageless.
The plot feels a little heavy and overloaded but thankfully, by the end, everything kind of falls into place in a good way. I also felt like this didn’t just build off of its direct predecessor by featuring the same villain and key characters but it also sets up the future, as the main villain is still alive and one would assume that he will come back into play again, almost becoming Mission: Impossible‘s equivalent to James Bond‘s Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Plus, Sean Harris is f’n chilling as hell in this role and despite him being a monster, I want to see more of him. Although, I do eventually want to see him catch a bullet or an even more over-the-top death.
I think that my favorite thing about this film, though, was the rivalry and personal war that developed between Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Henry Cavill’s August Walker. While Cavill dies, their final battle was so damn enjoyable that I wish he hadn’t. And no, I don’t think they’ll bring him back because that’d be stupid, based off of how he gets taken out, but killing him was a mistake due to how well he and Cruise worked together.
Additionally, the action in this chapter is top notch and nothing short of what you would expect.
I also feel like I need to give props to the film’s score by Lorne Balfe, who successfully experimented with the classic Mission: Impossible theme in multiple parts of the picture. I liked his fresh take on the score, as it felt like it belonged and didn’t come off as a composer trying too hard to stand out and make his own mark. It meshed well with what we’ve become used to over the last few films and just built off of that.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout is impressive. But most importantly it was entertaining as hell and a shit ton of fun.
I’m also just going to come out and say that this series, after the disastrous second chapter, is my favorite film series post-2000. They’re consistently great, always leave me impressed and make me yearn for more.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.
Release Date: June 14th, 2011 (New Zealand) Directed by: Martin Campbell Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg Based on: characters by DC Comics Music by: James Newton Howard Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Temuera Morrison, Geoffrey Rush (voice), Michael Clarke Duncan (voice), Taika Waititi, Clancy Brown (voice)
DC Entertainment, De Line Pictures, Warner Bros., 114 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)
“You’re impertinent, Hal Jordan. You’re rash, volatile, opinionated – It seems Abin Sur found another just like himself.” – Sinestro
Man, I had high hopes for this film when it was coming out. Although, I thought Ryan Reynolds was a poor choice, despite liking him in general. He’s just not the Hal Jordan type and luckily he found his superhero calling once he started making Deadpool movies. I’m ignoring his first outing as Deadpool in that Wolverine movie though, as that was atrocious beyond atrociousness.
Anyway, this film was a supreme dud. It could’ve been great, especially coming off of the heels of how great the Geoff Johns run was in the Green Lantern comics just before this movie. Also, this had an incredible cast apart from the Reynolds misfire.
I think my hopes were also high due to how well the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were in those first few years. But I guess the filmmakers behind this didn’t learn the lessons from the bad comic book adaptations, as they took the villain Parallax and essentially made him a giant fucking cloud like Galactus in the laughably awful Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
For positives, I liked what they were doing with Hector Hammond and I also liked the world building they did with the Green Lantern Corps. I also liked most of the people in the film but they should’ve used Sinestro more, especially with Mark Strong in the role. They also sort of wasted Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett without giving them more and better material to work with.
The special effects were pretty terrible. There are some good effects moments but the film looks overly cartoon-y and the Oa scenes felt more like a Pixar movie than anything I could try and attach to any sort of reality.
Also, giving the Green Lanterns fully CGI costumes was a bad idea.
I guess the biggest disappointment out of this was that it was directed by Martin Campbell, who did two of my favorite James Bond movies: GoldenEye and Casino Royale.
Rating: 4.25/10 Pairs well with: other crappy superhero movies of the ’00s and ’10s.
Release Date: May 13th, 1991 (Cannes) Directed by: John Singleton Written by: John Singleton Music by: Stanley Clarke Cast: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Larry Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Nia Long, Tyra Ferrell, Redge Green, Dedrick D. Gobert, Regina King, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Whitman Mayo
Columbia Pictures, 112 Minutes
“Why is it that there is a gun shop on almost every corner in this community?” – Furious Styles, “Why?” – The Old Man, “I’ll tell you why. For the same reason that there is a liquor store on almost every corner in the black community. Why? They want us to kill ourselves.” – Furious Styles
Boyz N The Hood was a movie that had a pretty big impact on me in my middle school years. I was going into 7th grade when it came out but by the time it hit video, I rented it a lot.
What lured me into it was the edge the film had with Ice Cube in it, a rapper I listened to almost daily back then. But beyond that, I was pulled into John Singleton’s unique knack for storytelling. While this is well acted, a lot of the story and emotion comes through in more of a visual way.
Unlike many of the “gangsta” films that came out after and were inspired by this and Marion Van Peebles’ New Jack City, this one is truly a masterpiece on just about every level. And, once seeing this, it is easy to understand how this film gave birth to a new genre in the early ’90s.
To start, the acting by just about everyone in this picture is superb. The main cast delivers their performances with passion and gusto.
I love how in your face Ice Cube can be but there is a subtle gentleness under the surface that really comes out in his final scene, which is still maybe the best he’s ever been onscreen.
Cuba Gooding Jr. gave a somewhat understated performance that worked really well for his character and when the point comes in the movie for him to show real emotion, it has an impact that might have been lacking without his cool and chill demeanor leading up to it.
I also like Morris Chestnut, who is mostly just a regular guy here. He’s got issues but he’s a guy with a bright future, which makes his fate in the film extremely tough to process no matter how many times you’ve seen this play out.
The real scene stealer is Laurence Fishburne and while that shouldn’t be surprising, this was pretty early in his career and even though he’d been in many films before this, it is his role here that put his career path on a strong upward trajectory.
It’s also worth pointing out how beautiful and perfect Stanley Clarke’s score is. The music conveys real emotion and it grounds the drama in a way that the mostly hip-hop soundtrack can’t on its own. There is a great balance between hip-hop, soul and the score itself. However, in contrast to what became typical of this style of film after Boyz N the Hood, this doesn’t use a ton of rap music. It’s there where it needs to be but this wasn’t a movie that was trying to sell soundtrack tie-ins like everything that copied it. And it’s not that that’s a bad thing and I didn’t even notice it back in the day but seeing this film now, it was kind of refreshing knowing that the filmmaker relied heavily on his composer to assist with the tone and the movement of the plot. Side note: Stanley Clarke’s first score was Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, which got him an Emmy nomination.
This is a heavy and emotional film; it works because it feels genuine and real. It has aged tremendously well and is kind of timeless, even if it is set in a specific era that comes with its own stylistic and cultural tropes.
Singleton, with Boyz N the Hood, crafted a perfect motion picture that deserves to be called a masterpiece and is still above all the films that came along and tried to emulate it. Not bad for a first time director.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with:Menace II Society, South Central, Colors, Baby Boy, Higher Learning and Poetic Justice.
Release Date: April 22nd, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Based on:The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Linda Cardellini, Tessa Thompson, Rene Russo, John Slattery, Tilda Swinton, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Taika Waititi, Angela Bassett, Frank Grillo, Robert Redford, Ty Simpkins, James D’Arcy, Ken Jeong, Yvette Nichole Brown
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 181 Minutes
“You could not live with your own failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me.” – Thanos
*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.
Here we are… the end.
Well, it’s the end of an era but not the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although, this may be the end for me, as there isn’t much else I’m looking forward to from the MCU after Endgame. Granted, there hasn’t been much news on what’s coming next, either.
But anyway, how was this film? The big, badass finale to a 22 movie franchise?
It was good but it wasn’t anything close to stellar.
My biggest issue with it was that it was a pretty big clusterfuck that had too many parts to try and balance. Where the previous film Infinity War did that just fine, Endgame had so many more extra layers thrown on top of it that it was overkill. I mean every single character that had any sort of significant impact on MCU storylines over 22 films ended up shoehorned into this thing. Even Natalie Portman, who wanted nothing to do with these movies after being in two of them and dialing in a mediocre performance both times.
Also, the time travel element to the story did a bunch of things that didn’t make sense and they also pissed on Back to the Future because it’s easier to shit on a classic (and its fictitious application of quantum physics) than to actually write a coherent time travel story of your own. Endgame opted to go the lazy Doctor Who “timey wimey” route than to concern itself with paradoxes and all that other catastrophic nonsense. They even kill a version of a character from the past and it in no way effects the present version of that same character.
The big battle at the end was the most epic thing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done but what should have felt like Marvel’s version of The Return of the King felt more like Ready Player Two. It was a CGI shitfest and I’m not even sure how Spider-Man was web-swinging on a large, open battlefield where the only objects above him were fast moving spaceships going in the opposite of the direction he was swinging in. But whatever, physics is hard, brah.
I liked that this film gave us some closure for some major characters. Granted, I’m not all that happy with what that closure was but like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., I’m also very, very tired of this franchise. I feel like Endgame really is a jumping off point for fans that have rode this train for 11 years that feel like they need a break. I feel like I need a break and even if my mind was made up before this film, Endgame really solidified it.
Although, I am a bit excited for whatever happens with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor. As for the rest of the characters and their films, I don’t really care. I think I’m only really enthused about cosmic Marvel and not Earth Marvel, at this point.
Almost all of the acting was damn good, especially in regards to Robert Downey Jr., Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson.
Brie Larson on the other hand is a fucking charisma vacuum and every time she was on screen, I felt like I was looking at a first time community theater actress trying to play Nurse Ratched. And the Justin Bieber makeover was terrible. That scene where she blew up the ship and floated there, victoriously, just made me yearn for someone, anyone else to be in that role. My brain immediately thought, “Man, imagine if that was Charlize Theron, the theater would’ve just erupted instead of everyone just sitting here sucking loudly on empty soda cups.” I’m not wrong, I rarely ever am.
Anyway, the movie was messy but it had some really good moments. But this isn’t a movie that can stand on its own. You need the previous 21 films for context or all of this would be lost on you. Sure, it’s emotional and some bits are powerful but without 11 years of context, the weight isn’t there. And I prefer to judge films on their own merits as a sole body of work and not as an episode of a TV show or a chapter in a book. But at the same time, there is no way you can recap everything before this, as this film series is now too damn big.
Well, it’s over I guess. In 2008, it was hard imagining this day. But here it is. And I’m tired.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.
Also known as: Transformers 6 (working title), Brighton Falls (fake working title) Release Date: December 3rd, 2018 (Berlin premiere) Directed by: Travis Knight Written by: Christina Hodson Based on:Transformers by Hasbro Music by: Dario Marianelli Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Glynn Turman, Fred Dryer, Angela Bassett (voice), Justin Theroux (voice), Peter Cullen (voice)
Allspark Pictures, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Bay Films, Paramount Pictures, 114 Minutes
“The darkest nights, produce the brightest stars.” – Memo
The first three minutes and twenty seconds of this movie are pure Transformers perfection. The opening scene hit every single note in the right way and proved to me, right out the gate, that this was not a Michael Bay Transformers movie and that the creative team behind this film, actually cared about the source material.
Then the next scene was spectacular and the opening twelve minutes or so were a hell of a lot of fun, punctuated by John Cena being awesome because he initially felt like a heel in the story.
Now the film starts to taper off from its awesomeness a bit once we meet the main, non-robot characters, and deal with teen angst and crappy summer jobs. But that stuff is far from terrible and the movie does do a good job of fitting within the ’80s. Well, except for how often it has to remind you of what decade it is with a constant barrage of random Top 40 hits of the time. Not that I dislike ’80s music, I love a lot of music from that decade, but the selections didn’t seem cohesive and it felt like some millennial giving their Amazon Echo a very generic statement like, “Play ’80s music!”
This was also the most human and emotional Transformers to date. It develops its characters well, you truly care about Bumblebee and the humans and seeing Bumblebee feeling lost, without his memory, is executed greatly. Sure, it’s a cheesy, feel good movie but what’s wrong with feeling good?
What really wowed me is that most of this film is fan service but it understands what fan service is, delivers it damn well and sort of makes up for all the other atrocious Transformers movies I stopped watching after the second one.
Also, the robots look damn near perfect. Going back to the incredible opening scene, all the Autobots and Decepticons featured there looked exactly as they should if you are using the G1 era as your source. Between Wheeljack, Soundwave, Shockwave and all the others, it felt great to see them in a live action movie the way they were meant to be seen, which is all I ever wanted from the five films before this one. In fact, when Starscream and the Seekers turn into Cybertronian jets, they look just like they did in the pilot of the G1 cartoon, with a sort of sleek pyramid shape.
Megatron is nowhere to be seen but the two main villains were really solid stand-ins. The female robot was voice by Angela Bassett and the male was very much a perfect recreation of Vortex. The two of them were also triple changes. So where the Vortex looking Decepticon looked like the actual Vortex helicopter mode, he was also able to turn into a muscle car.
Hell, Cliffjumper shows up for one scene and he looked perfect. It was great seeing him get an appearance. considering that he’s been completely overshadowed by his brother, Bumblebee, since the original cartoon started. I always liked Cliffjumper better, as a kid.
Hailee Steinfeld put in an energetic and convincing performance and was the best human protagonist in the history of Transformers movies. The kid crushing on her was pretty useless but I didn’t hate him. However, the kid playing her little brother was terrific and I wish we would have seen more of him. Also, Pamela Adlon as her mother was a very strong plus for me.
In the end, Bumblebee was the Transformers movie I never thought I’d get. It’s far from perfect but it is a great step in the right direction. While this was intended to be a prequel to the Michael Bay films, I think they should just use this as a reboot and relaunch the franchise off of the shoulders of this film. And with that being said, I don’t want this to be the last time we see Steinfeld’s character.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: the original Transformers cartoon and animated movie but NOT the Michael Bay films, as this is so much better than those.
Release Date: January 29th, 2018 (Dolby Theatre premiere) Directed by: Ryan Coogler Written by: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole Based on:Black Panther by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby Music by: Ludwig Göransson Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Sebastian Stan (cameo)
Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 147 Minutes
“The world is changing. Soon there will only be the conquered and the conquerors. You are a good man, with a good heart. And it’s hard for a good man to be a king.” – King T’Chaka
*There be spoilers here!
The world around me turned Black Panther into a political and social film. I wanted to go into it and just enjoy it for what it is, whether the end result was good or bad. But you’ve got Hollywood and and critics pimping it out like its the greatest superhero film of all-time. While that happens almost every time a new Marvel movie comes out, there was the SJW twist this time, just as there was with Wonder Woman. On the flip side of that, there were the anti-SJW whiners who were trying to trash the film before seeing it and even going as far as to sabotage ratings and reviews on interactive movie websites.
I just wanted to see this movie and judge it on its own merits. I had to shut out the outside world (thankfully I deactivated my Facebook long ago) and I had to walk into the theater, sit down and experience this film for myself and without prejudice, bias or some sort of white male guilt weighing heavy on my brain because the media wants to constantly remind me what I’m responsible for throughout history.
All bullshit aside, I thought Black Panther was pretty damn good. Now I didn’t like it as much as the last Thor movie or as much as those Guardians of the Galaxy pictures, but this is certainly one of the best Marvel movies to take place on Earth. Granted, most of this takes place in the fictional and fantastical nation of Wakanda but it is very much a movie about our home planet.
What makes Black Panther so interesting and probably really gratifying and inspirational for black people, is that it shows black people being at the forefront of trying to fix the world’s problems. It shows that they’ve always had something of extreme value to offer but because of the state of the rest of the world, have withheld it and kept it safe. Sure, it’s metaphor, but it’s an effective metaphor and has a deeper meaning than just being a plot device created by Marvel Comics decades ago.
I have been a massive fan of Chadwick Boseman since I saw him play Jackie Robinson in the grossly underappreciated 42. Seeing him get to star in a film directed by Ryan Coogler, alongside Coogler’s go-to guy Michael B. Jordan, was something I couldn’t pass up, regardless of what this movie was about. And luckily, for us, Boseman and Jordan have good chemistry and both actors carry each other to a higher level.
The philosophical differences between Boseman’s Black Panther and Jordan’s Killmonger are both clearly understood and, as a viewer, you respect Panther’s vision of keeping the peace but it is hard to not get swept into the emotion and justice Killmonger feels he needs to enact. Part of me actually hoped that the two would fight it out and would both survive and diplomatically find a solution together. I mean, they’re long lost cousins and it was obvious Killmonger was reconsidering his iron clad stance in those final moments, where a part of him learned to love his true king and cousin.
The rest of the cast is exceptional, especially the three main ladies.
It was nice seeing Lupita Nyong’o playing a human being and not a motion capture character. While I enjoyed her work in Star Wars and The Jungle Book, I haven’t seen her in much else. It was nice being able to feel connected to her and her performance in a more organic way. Danai Gurira, who I really only know from The Walking Dead, finally got a role that allowed her to break free from just being known as sword-wielding badass Michonne. Letitia Wright was probably my favorite person in the film, overall. She played the Panther’s sister, was a scientist and also got into the thick of it and proved that she is far from being just some damsel in distress; she is a friggin’ warrior.
The rest of the cast is comprised of Martin Freeman, playing the same role he did in Captain America: Civil War, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Daniel Kaluuya, in his first role since Get Out. Newcomer Winston Duke was great as Panther’s rival, M’Baku. He is a warrior king from the mountains who challenges Panther for the throne but ultimately, is instrumental in helping Black Panther save Wakanda.
It was really cool seeing Andy Serkis return as the villain Klaw, who was briefly seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s also always fun to see Serkis play a character that is him, in the flesh. He’s synonymous with motion capture characters so we don’t often get to see his actual face in a big blockbuster film. He was superb as Ulysses Klaue a.k.a. Klaw. His personality was infectious and insane. In all honesty, Marvel has had a hard time of creating great villains but Serkis’ Klaw is now one of my favorites. I just wish Marvel would stop killing all the baddies because we’ll never get a Masters of Evil story that way.
As far as the film’s look, it is pristine and beautiful. Wakanda is one of the most enchanting places in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The special effects and cinematography are spectacular and there isn’t a shot in the film that doesn’t look like it wasn’t meticulously crafted.
Black Panther was a film that came in with a lot of hype and a lot of political and social concerns. Getting beyond that and staring into its core, it is a fine film, crafted by a solid, up and coming director who has already accomplished a lot with only three pictures under his belt. I hope that Coogler returns for the eventual sequel.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with:Captain America: Civil War and presumably Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel, once they come out.
Original Run: October 5th, 2011 – current Created by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk Directed by: various Written by: various Music by: Cesar Davila-Irizarry, Charlie Clouser, James S. Levine, Mac Quayle Cast: Evan Peters, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Denis O’Hare, Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Lizzie Brocheré, James Cromwell, Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, Michael Chiklis, Finn Wittrock, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Chloë Sevigny, Cheyenne Jackson, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr., André Holland, Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Alexandra Daddario, Grace Gummer, Lance Reddick, Alexandra Breckenridge
Ryan Murphy Productions, Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision, 20th Century Fox, 78 Episodes (so far), 37-73 Minutes (per episode)
*written in 2015.
I just binge watched the first three seasons of American Horror Story, as I was running out of things to watch on Netflix and this was in my queue for a few years. I have yet to see season 4, as it isn’t available yet.
I have a few friends who obsess over this show, which is probably why I put it off for so long. Usually, when a bunch of people build something up really high, I am left disappointed. I think the only time I wasn’t was when I finally sat down to watch Breaking Bad.
I wouldn’t call American Horror Story a disappointment though. It was pretty enjoyable and I’ll watch future seasons, albeit at my own leisure. But I wouldn’t call the show special or hype it up to everyone I know.
The premise of the show is horror, which is obvious by the title, but other than tapping into supernatural elements and showing something scary every now and then, it plays more like a teen drama. But that is the way of Hollywood these days. Sure, most of the characters are older than teens but this is definitely a show written for them.
The show just isn’t scary and that is why I have reservations about horror being used in a television format. Sure, you can churn up a few frights and provide creepy visuals and a dark tone but over the course of a 13 episode season, the monsters you are selling get less and less scary. When the reveals have to happen early because modern audiences can’t tolerate suspense, there is nowhere else to go other than adding in more teen drama and stretching out a resolution.
I guess the one thing that irks me about the show, is how the payoffs seem rushed, the resolution happens almost too early and the final few episodes of each season play like an epilogue that is too fleshed out. The grand evil each season is conquered around episode 11. So what you get is two more episodes that really aren’t necessary. I don’t care about any of these characters that much. It’s like the ending to the extended edition of The Return of the King – you just want it to be over.
Highlights of the show include the acting talents of Jessica Lange and Evan Peters (who was Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past). The rest of the cast, at least the actors who appear over multiple seasons are all pretty good. Although, Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau was horrible. I don’t blame her, as the character of Laveau was horribly written. The writers really tarnished the well respected legacy of the New Orleans Voodoo Queen and turned her into an evil vengeful idiot. Kathy Bates was fantastic though, I do want to point that out.
I like the show more than I dislike it but it hasn’t solidified me as a fan and it is a moderately enjoyable way to waste a weekend.
After the third season, I watched two more. Each year gets worse and worse, to the point that I’ve completely stopped caring about the show. The last season I watched was Hotel and I have no more interest in the future of this anthology franchise. I think there are two more seasons after Hotel with the possibility of this going on forever… but I’m done.
As a kid, I used to love watching the first two Critters films over and over. And since I recently reviewed the Gremlins series, I thought I’d get reacquainted with its best knockoff.
Release Date: April 11th, 1986 Directed by: Stephen Herek Written by: Stephen Herek, Domonic Muir, Don Keith Opper Music by: David Newman Cast: Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy “Green” Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine Van der Velde, Don Keith Opper, Billy Zane, Terrence Mann
New Line Cinema, 85 Minutes
After producing a massive hit with A Nightmare On Elm Street, New Line Cinema joined several other studios in trying to make their own copycat of 1984’s Gremlins. It was a similar trend to what happened after Jaws came out in the 70s and it inspired a ton of copycats through the rest of the decade.
Critters is probably the best of the Gremlins wannabes. The main reason, is that it is still its own film with its own identity. Sure, the two pictures share similarities but Critters is darker, more ferocious and has that great low-budget 80s horror vibe to it. Plus, it establishes the creatures as vicious aliens and brings in two cool alien bounty hunters.
While, from a critical standpoint, Critters is considered the best of its franchise. I do feel that the second one edges it out a bit, which I will explain when I get to that one.
This film is still pretty fantastic though. It is comical, at times, but it does seem like the most serious of the movies. Overall, it might also be the most fun.
Dee Wallace, who was the queen of 80s horror, plays the mom. She doesn’t get as dirty as she has gotten in other films but it is always great to see her embracing the genre of horror. Scott Grimes plays the son, who would also reprise his role in the sequel. Then you have a small part by Billy Zane, before he was well-known.
Most importantly, the film introduces us to Charlie (played by Don Opper) and Ug (played by Terrence Mann). They would go on to be in all four of the films in the series, playing a pair of bounty hunters. Granted, Charlie is a drunk Earthling buffoon in the first movie but he would evolve into a sober bad ass buffoon over time.
The first movie still plays pretty well. The effects are good for the time and mostly hold up. I can see why this is considered the best of the series but let me get into the second picture and why I prefer it.
Critters 2: The Main Course (1988):
Release Date: April 29th, 1988 Directed by: Mick Garris Written by: David Twohy, Mick Garris Music by: Nicholas Pike Cast: Scott Grimes, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Liane Curtis, Barry Corbin, Tom Hodges, Sam Anderson
New Line Cinema, 85 Minutes
The reason I like this installment the best, is because it is a lot less confined than the others. The first film takes place primarily on a farm, the third film is mostly set in an urban apartment building while the fourth and final chapter is on a confined space station. Critters 2, on the other hand, encompasses an entire small town and the areas around it. And honestly, it just feels like it has the biggest budget. It utilized what little it had with maximum effects. Plus you get the giant Critters ball at the end of the film, which was just really cool when I was a young kid.
The film also features Charlie as an actual bounty hunter. In fact, it features the bounty hunters the most and they are the coolest characters in the series, especially Ug. We are then introduced to Lee, a third bounty hunter, who takes the form of a nude Playboy Playmate. Granted, she acquires clothes after her introduction. But it was great seeing amazing breasts in a PG-13 movie when I was nine.
The film brings back Scott Grimes from the original. It also adds in Liane Curtis, who I was crushing on, back in the day. Barry Corbin joins the cast as the sheriff and I’ve always been a fan of his work. Sam Anderson, who you may know from a slew of television appearances, has a small role as Liane Curtis’ overprotective father.
Critters 2 is the quintessential Critters movie. It has everything you would want from one of these pictures. Although, a bit more gore would have been better. While there are more creatures and more overall destruction, it seriously lacks in showing the audience anything graphic. You get a few bones and skeletons but that is the gist of it.
Critters 3 (1991):
Release Date: December 11th, 1991 Directed by: Kristine Peterson Written by: David J. Schow, Rupert Harvey, Barry Opper Music by: David C. Williams Cast: Aimee Brooks, John Calvin, Katherine Cortez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Geoffrey Blake, Frances Bay, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann
New Line Home Video, 85 Minutes
Critters 3 is the worst of the films.
While it does feature a very young Leonardo DiCaprio, he isn’t the main character and he has little to do other than hating his dork stepfather and being a romantic interest of the teen girl lead.
Most of the characters in this one are pretty unlikable. Especially Frank. Frank is just an awful and annoying human being. I cherished his death.
Although, Frances Bay’s character was cool. She has always been a great character actor and her meat cleaving bad ass grandma was fun to watch.
This is just a pretty weak film. It doesn’t serve much purpose other than trying to make money without spending any. The creatures weren’t really funny anymore and everything felt like a rehash of things we’ve already seen in the other movies.
And nearly everyone survives, which is a big failure for a movie series that prided itself on eating people.
Critters 4 (1992):
Release Date: October 14th, 1992 Directed by: Rupert Harvey Written by: David J. Schow, Joseph Lyle, Rupert Harvey, Barry Opper Music by: Peter Manning Robinson Cast: Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Paul Whitthorne, Angela Bassett, Andres Hove, Eric Da Re, Brad Dourif, Martine Beswick (voice)
New Line Home Video, 105 Minutes
Critters 4 is a step above Critters 3 but not by much.
It is the ugliest film in the series as it utilizes dark and dreary space station sets. Everything in this movie looks 90s and not like something that should represent the 2040s, when it takes place.
The sets look like every other generic horror movie spaceship set of the era. Everything is dark and back lit. The computer screens look outdated, even for the 90s. Nothing about it is imaginative or cool. By comparison, it makes Jason X look like a science fiction masterpiece.
On a positive note, we are back to seeing these creatures devour everyone in sight. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of characters. Most of them die horrifically though.
We also get to see a young Angela Bassett, just before she found fame playing Tina Turner in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It. The film also stars Brad Dourif most known as the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play movies and Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings films.
Strangely, Ug returns as the villain in this chapter. His turn to the darkside is never really explained and the opportunity to add depth to the story and the relationship between Ug and Charlie was wasted.
Critters 4 is just more of the same. Except it is all acted out on the ugliest sets in the series.