Tensions rise when the trailblazing Mother of the Blues and her band gather at a Chicago recording studio in 1927. Adapted from August Wilson’s play. (Letterboxd)
Retains the stage-y feel of its source material, but that’s not a bad thing (the rapid dialogue jazzily bounces the film along at a great pace and the monologues simmer and explode from out of the cramped and sweaty setting) and it has powerful filmic touches too (see the poignant opening misdirection). Davis and Boseman give particularly powerful turns in this rich work (themes of past and future, art and ambition, race and power all bubble between the gut-punching compare/contrast bookends).
Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. (IMDb)
Striking cold-open aside, the first half feels clunky and even dull at times. Post-retrieval picks things up with violent tension (see the mine scene) and emotional character work (see Paul’s solo soul journey) but it’s difficult to parse out all the character motivations and plot threads in the chaos. In the end, its compelling, complex themes (past into present day war[s], greed on top of racial tension) and powerful symbolism (see Norman’s almost Christ-like figure) leave plenty to chew on.
Thanos’ villain still felt a little familiar with his twisted “for the greater good” motive, but he remained an intimidating presence-a good match for the huge cast of heroes which is balanced remarkably well throughout and contributes to plenty of amazing moments both of comedy (see Thor meeting the Guardians) and action (see the Titan attack; Thor’s arrival in Wakanda). With all the superpowers going around some snags in the plot arise but its massive stakes and solid execution overwhelm them.
T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake. (IMDb)
The people, sets, and costumes of the fascinating Wakanda are a fantastic breath of fresh air, and the supporting characters especially (Nakia, Okoye, Shuri) all beg for further fleshing out. As an action film it worked better with Serkis’ simpler villain (see the awesome South Korea sequence) than Jordan’s more complex one, as the good vs. evil nuances he introduced deserved a slower drama instead of a sudden civil war and typical superhero climax (though the epilogue was of course touching).
Great action? Sure. But the civil war premise behind half of it is terribly constructed. The initial point of tension was decent but certainly didn’t warrant an all-out brawl (the banter in the airport showdown just proved how dumb it was) and it developed into a misunderstanding that could’ve been resolved just with a good conversation instead of a near to-the-death fight (you were friends, right?). Like, the bad guy just said he wanted you to fight each other. Truly a stupid superhero movie.