Black Panther (2018)

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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).
7/10 (Good)

 

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

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In 1965, an unorthodox and irreverent DJ named Adrian Cronauer begins to shake up things when he is assigned to the U.S. Armed Services radio station in Vietnam. (IMDb)
I expected the rambunctious rapid-fire radio comedy (even if I rarely got the jokes, the montages with the rocking 60s hits were excellent and the uptight Hauk an almost too-perfect adversary); what surprised me was its serious commentary on the Vietnam war, not just with the army censorship issue but with the conflict’s effects on civilians as well (see the striking “What a Wonderful World” montage), though Aidan’s womanizing got that off to a rough start and the Tuan twist is left unresolved.
7/10 (Good)

 

Arrival (2016)

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A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. (IMDb)
The “communication” thematic perspective is refreshingly down-to-earth (nailed it) for an alien flick, but a mid-movie voiceover somewhat mars its thoughtful slow pace, its human-human angle feels a little forced, and the rash rebel interruption is unfounded, not to mention cliche. Small flaws aside, this remains a smart and exquisite-looking sci-fi with a memorable final act, as the bits of Louise’s emotional backstory are masterfully eased into the forefront, unraveling a stunning twist.
8/10 (Great)

Dope (2015)

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Life changes for Malcolm, a geek who’s surviving life in a tough neighborhood, after a chance invitation to an underground party leads him and his friends into a Los Angeles adventure. (IMDb)
Despite a fresh-feeling setting, nice-looking cinematography, active editing, great music, and a trio of likeable protagonists, the film struggles to connect in a solid way up until Malcolm’s dramatic gun draw, thanks to some messy writing that half-hazardly breezes through a high school partying plot and too often feels try-hard with its humour. A unique fourth-wall-breaking “moral of the story” hits home though, and re-frames the film’s brazen Superbad-esque story in a thought-provoking way.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Panic Room (2002)

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A highly engaging thriller featuring some really cool swooping film shots and solid acting all around. There are a couple of questionable plot points and the bad guys seem a bit too conveniently incompetent at certain important moments, but none of this ever keeps you from the edge of your seat. The central concept is interesting, and the tension, action, and emotion that surround it make the film an entertaining watch overall.
7/10 (Good)