Black Panther: Movie Man Jackson

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. After participating in the legendary Civil War that pitted Tony Stark and Steve Rogers against each other, Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to his technologically advanced and off-the-grid African nation of Wakanda. The Black Panther carries a heavy heart; the death of his father T’Chaka (John Kani) ever lingering within it. Yet, a king is needed, and that responsibility falls unto T’Challa to take the mantle.

As Wakanda prepares to enter a new era, many in the world are hellbent on discovering her secrets. Arms dealer Ulysses Klawe (Andy Serkis) and mysterious nomad Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) align themselves with each other to achieve what they’re after, respectively. For Klawe, it’s precious vibranium and the riches that come with it, but for Killmonger, it’s a lot more personal. He’s coming for the crown, and the man’s willing to spill as much blood as needed to get it, T’Challa’s included.

Bar none, one of the best feelings is being in a theater and realizing that what is on screen can never be duplicated or replicated. The energy and mood are unforgettable. In less than one calendar year, the world has received two cultural touchstone films in Get Out and, now, Black Panther. Like Jordan Peele’s work, there are some that may only see this as one type of movie only, but the fact is, that’s kind of limiting. Black Panther fits extremely well into the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but honestly—like the best superhero films—it’s able to transcend genre and create something long-lasting.

Praise goes all around, but let’s start with the juggernaut. Marvel’s got a formula, which is news to no one. Black Panther, for the most part, stays in the framework of it. However, in their recent catalog the studio has shown a desire to jigger things up and/or play against the superhero genre conventions, be it The Winter SoldierGuardians of The Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarokor even Ant-ManSuccess can make people and organizations stagnant, but it can also allow for more chances to be taken; no way a movie like this gets made ten years ago.

Perhaps the most surprising thing coming out of Black Panther is just how much control uber-talented writer/director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) has over everything. What’s often lost in blockbuster films is a director’s style and vision. But unequivocally, this is Ryan’s vision from the jump, tackling modern issues and topics such as identity, nationalism, and utilitarianism and framing them in the environment that is Wakanda. None of it feels forced or one-sided, either, as valid points are made for each side of the proverbial coin. Providing so much minutiae and plot meat only serves to crystallize the belief that Wakanda is this world that is as culturally reach and detailed as the visuals show. Only the first 10 minutes are arguably a little rough around the edges with a lot of information dumping and a scene that plays out better as we return to it midway through.

Of course, this amount of writing depth carries over to the wide cast of characters in Black Panther, starting with…the Black Panther. Civil War wonderfully introduced the world to T’Challa on a surface level, but his solo film goes into his psyche—sometimes literally—like few superhero movies do with their saviors. Chadwick Boseman is the lead actor this role needs, supremely confident, silently charismatic and in possession of this royal gaze that carries a ton of weight. In short, he’s awesome and an awesomely fresh hero.

But where Black Panther separates itself from its Marvel film brethren is through its villain of one Erik Killmonger, portrayed by Michael B. Jordan in a role that calls for physicality, swagger, and vulnerability. The studio has always had an issue in creating compelling foils for its legendary heroes. Rarely has a baddie been introduced better in his or her opening scene than here. To spoil even the slightest is a sin, but to say it simply, only Loki has a claim as Marvel’s best villain, and so much of the emotion of Black Panther comes from Killmonger’s past and his rational viewpoint that fuel his actions. Seeing T’Challa and Erik wage war over how to best run Wakanda is kind of Civil War-like, where no guy is completely wrong. Only difference are the levels Erik is willing to go to achieve his vision.

Boseman and Jordan are the anchors, but Coogler allows almost everyone to shine. Whether it’s Lupita Nyong’o pushing shoeless on the pedal metal, Andy Serkis going unhinged as a South African gangster, Martin Freeman being the fish-out-of-water, Daniel Kaluuya commanding an entire head of security, Danai Gurira laying waste to a room with a staff spear, or T’Challa’s brilliant sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) cranking out the latest addition to the Black Panther’s repertoire. Some roles like those of Forest Whitaker’s and Angela Bassett’s might be weaker than others, but they all fuse to make Wakanda what it is.

Everything to this point makes Black Panther sound more like a gloomy movie more in line with that other comic book universe, but rest assured, Black Panther is very entertaining even for those who don’t care to digest the emotional beats and geopolitical questions. The writing is mature in both themes and humor. Sight gags do exist, but the strength of the laughs mostly derives from the delivery and timing of the cast. For those who have seen Creed, it should come as no surprise that Coogler can craft long-take scenes of action and spectacle, this time getting really inventive with some of the setpieces backed by a great soundtrack and a magnificent score by Ludwig Göransson. Whether basking in the purple royalty hues of the spiritual skyline or the sparkling waterfalls, Wakanda is an eye-popping marvel whether 3D is utilized or not.

Even the very last shot of Black Panther seems to realize the moment at hand, drawing parallels to the movie that started it all with the MCU way back when in 2008. Whatever goes down in The Avengers’ next chapter, one thing’s for certain: T’Challa’s here to stay. Wakanda Forever.

A-

Photo credits go to digitalspy.com, nairobiwire.com, and hollywoodreporter.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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War for the Planet of the Apes: Movie Man Jackson

The night is darkest just after the dawn. Years after Koba’s betrayal, the ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his nation of apes remain taking residence in the woods. Trying to live peacefully away from conflict, conflict finds them by way of The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). His assault on the apes’ home leaves massive casualties.

Now out for revenge, Caesar, along with Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), found hermit Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), and a young mute female straggler (Amiah Miller) embark on a journey to locate and eliminate The Colonel. The woods are no longer safe for apes, but a new location has been scouted and deemed livable. But, the war between apes and humans must reach a conclusion before the next chapter in ape evolution can begin.

Who knew that in 2011 the dawn of the next great trilogy was beginning with Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Considered a middling IP at best after Tim Burton’s 2001 spin on things, Rise and Rupert Wyatt invigorated new life into the franchise. But, director Matt Reeves pushed it in places it’s never been before, both visually and thematically, with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He officially ties the bow neatly on this trilogy with War for the Planet of the Apes.

Of course, it should go without saying at this point that the CGI, motion capture, rendering, and whatever else I’m probably forgetting on the technical side of this feature is absolutely impeccable. I’m saying it again because as spectacular Dawn was on that front, War takes it up multiple levels, proving that in three years technology evolves at an exponential rate. There are shots—extreme close up shots—of Caesar and his mains-in-command that are mind-blowing, and full of weight.

Fear and loss play a huge part in this movie; the consternation is seen on many of the lead characters’ faces. The character arc of Caesar goes very deep, and Serkis does it all as the ape leader. His delivery of dialogue, as well as sign language and facials, is moving. Not to be shortchanged either are newcomer Steve Zahn, Michael Adamthwaite, and Karen Konoval. Woody Harrelson stands as the best human character the reboot has seen, his style being perfect for the military leader. Some of the best moments are devoid of any dialogue or even subtitles. Reeves opts to tell some of War for Apes completely visually. The sounds of composer Michael Giacchino go a long way in making this endeavor a success.

In a cinema world in which seemingly every big studio is on the hunt for the next universe starter or continuation, War for the Planet of the Apes has no real aspirations to do so. One would be doing themselves a massive disservice by not watching the predecessors, but, it is cool that Reeves commences War with two-sentence recaps for newbies that summarizes everything newcomers need to know before seguieng into an impressive opening action sequence. War for Apes is a mostly cold and bleak affair, befitting of a predominately cool grey and blue color palette. That doesn’t make it any less of a technical masterpiece, though.

War for Apes, like Dawn before it, uses its primates to hold a mirror to our own society. However, where Dawn was subtler in its approach, War goes a little more overt and obvious, lessening the impact and the thought-provoking themes ever so slightly. The war aspect of the title is present, but the war itself seems to be more metaphorical than literal. Do not go in expecting a prolonged blitzkrieg; War for Apes is emotional-drama first, action-blockbuster second.

The last stand for Caesar and company caps off an amazing epic that will rank up there with the best trilogies in film history. This war closes the chapter between humans and apes, but won’t quickly be forgotten.

A-

Photo credits go to slashfilm.com, aceshowbiz.com, and digitalspy.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Movie Man Jackson

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“Apes do not want war!”

The ape uprising is over, and their dawn is fully upon us. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes occurs 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and it is now a whole new world. The ALZ-113 virus, otherwise known as the Simian Flu, has spread to every corner in the world and consequently has wiped out a substantial part of the human race. Though a small part of the human population is immune, there is no indication as to how large this pool of survivors is.

Meanwhile, the ape nation is experiencing an era of prosperity, led by their unquestioned leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). He has built a civilization in the Redwoods that is rooted on family concepts and the unbreakable bond these apes share. It has been a while since Caesar and others have seen humans, so they rightfully assume that the entire race has perished.

Or so they thought. One day, a band of human survivors looking for a critical piece that is the key to their survival stumble upon this new civilization. Immediately there is uneasiness, but understanding as well. Both sides coexist tenuously but appear to get what they want until all hell breaks loose. At this point, the rubber will meet the road as humans and apes will collide with the future in tow.

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On all fronts, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular film. It isn’t easy to improve upon things that were so well done in Rise of Apes, but the heights achieved here surpass anything done in its predecessor. If 2011’s film has yet to be seen for whatever reason, please, see that before this. Not only is it a great work in its own right, it will give that much more appreciation to this film.

Back to today’s feature presentation though. Part of why the movie is so enthralling is the attention it gives to character depth, both apes and yes, even humans. Caesar is once again the focus, brilliantly acted by Andy Serkis. In this, he has become even more fleshed out than before. He is not just a father to his kids (one newborn), but also serves as a father, leader, and general to his entire nation. You can tell that the stress of it all really gets to him, as he knows that one slight misstep on his part sets his civilization back to a figurative place they never want to return to.

Serkis is simply outstanding, and his performance is jaw-dropping. When he speaks, he does so with conviction, but he is even more impressive when he does not. Everything that Caesar is contemplating, feeling, and internalizing is clearly visible facially, especially in the eyes. When I see Caesar on screen, I do not see an actor playing a chimp, I see a chimp. It is a testament to the stellar CGI and motion capture but also the commitment by Serkis to mastering little animalistic details that make the investment in his character so much stronger for the audience.

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While definitely the biggest star, Caesar isn’t the only star. Maurice, Rocket, and others return as key cogs to round out the ape faction, but it is Koba who firmly plants his presence in the franchise. As a result of the inhumane testing done upon him in the first installment, this guy harbors a lot of disdain for humans, and it is understandable. His pain, both physical and emotional, help to create a character with many layers and grey shades.

The human characters are even interesting. Even if not on the intrigue level of their opposition, their plight is one I found myself caring about. Jason Clarke portrays Malcolm, the man who finds himself most often in contact with Caesar, and the film does a great job at making parallels between the two. At the core, they are the same. Malcolm, like Caesar, is doing everything in his power to protect his family (Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee) and make for a better future for the ones they love. There is a bit of skepticism, but also a healthy respect that the two give each other. Gary Oldman also is of note, and while he doesn’t appear a ton here, it is pretty clear on how his character mimics another. It is this sort of parallelism that shows that the two groups have way more in common than they realize.

Additionally, Dawn of Apes has some important messages to say. One main message is this idea that we cannot let our singular, initial experiences shape our entire idea of what those “other” people are like. It may be a simplistic message, but how it is executed in the movie is flawless. There is one moment that I am not going to spoil in particular that made me think of American History X, and if you remember the dinner table scene from that movie, you may find what I am hinting at here. So much in the movie hits emotionally, and it never feels forced.

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Production-wise, they do not get much better than this. It has already been a great year for technical blockbuster brilliance, and count this as part of the highlights. San Francisco and the resulting area returns as the backdrop for the movie, and everything is fully realized in amazing detail, from the sprawling redwoods to reduced rubble. Director Matt Reeves really knows to encompass scale; there is nothing like seeing Caesar’s army of apes follow diligently behind whether on foot or by horse. Action sequences and sound mixing are a thing of beauty, and every clash and shot fired is captured in full. The score, sort of a bland existence from the previous movie, adds immensely to the scope of everything.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a film that cannot be missed. Featuring complex characters, an emotional script, and superb effects, it is unlikely to disappoint. It is not just an amazing summer flick, it is just an amazing flick, blockbuster season or not.

Grade: A

Photo credits go to ign.com, hypable.com, & collider.com

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Movie Man Jackson

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“Ape alone…weak. Apes together…strong.”

Hello people, I am back! And what better way to reintroduce myself than by looking at a 2011 movie whose fast approaching sequel may be number one on my summer radar? Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot of the beloved but maybe now slightly cheesy late 60’s and 70’s movies, serving to essentially tell the same story but in a much more modern setting.

Brilliant scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is at the cusp of a major breakthrough in the field. For years, he and his colleagues have been testing on apes in an effort to find a cure to degenerative brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s. On the day they are to bring in their test subject to display their progress, the female chimp goes berserk in the facility, which results in “Bright Eyes” and other experimental apes being put to sleep.

Her behavior, initially attributed to side effects from testing, instead shows to be correlated to protecting her newborn. Like his mother, this young chimp, exposed to the “mind repair” drug, shows amazing cognition far beyond humans in similar development stages. Forced to take him in or put him down, Will and his ailing father name him Caesar. By the end of the film, you’ll see why.

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Featuring outstanding CGI, excellence in motion capture, and a satisfying plot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is simply one of the better reboots of all time and really just a very entertaining piece of cinema. It is definitely great in a multitude of areas, but RPtA excels most in the technical department. For most of the movie, CGI isn’t really “seen” if that makes sense.

What I am saying is that it never feels as if there are graphics or images transplanted into scenes that look like something or someone caked over digitally to resemble primates. Long I know, but every orangutan, silverback, chimpanzee, etc. does appear and move as if it is the real thing.

Even the setting of San Francisco is an aspect of this movie that doesn’t receive a ton of acclaim, but it should. Of course, not all is filmed in “The City by the Bay,” but the bulk of the important scenes are. Something about seeing the apes scale Redwood Forest and the Golden Gate Bridge feels right from an aesthetic standpoint in a way that seeing these same apes run rampant in Chicago or New York wouldn’t, in my opinion at least.

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It is pretty clear what the climax will consist of with this movie. This predictability would be a problem and render the meat of the plot useless if there was no reason to get invested in anything or anyone. Thankfully, RPtA doesn’t have this issue, and proves that the journey can be just as important as the destination, if not more so.

Rise takes the time to build its main characters, why they do the things they do, and their resulting relationships, which makes the end all the more emotional as a result. Is it a slow burn? Sort of, but there are enough “Whoa!” moments injected sparingly during these slow happenings that whet the appetite. Additionally, while the themes of oppression and self-categorization are not groundbreaking and have been touched before in earlier installments, the inclusion of them never feels heavy handed.

Among the human characters of most importance, James Franco is the most prominent here. As stated, there is a strong motivation to what he does, even if it may be unethical, that makes him relatable. From a performance perspective, Franco is pretty average. He’s turned in great roles before, but nothing of great value in this.

Still, he adds a known name to the film that a lesser unknown could not. Underrated in many circles, here John Lithgow perhaps hits the highest emotional note. In many ways, he is the catalyst for much of what occurs. Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionairre) unfortunately serves as a pretty face with little to do, and it is not hard to imagine the movie without her.

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Without a doubt though, the star of the show is clearly Andy Serkis as Caesar. It has been a minute since I felt so invested in a “live” animal on film, but Serkis is that good. From Caesar’s infancy to his galvanizing young adulthood, all of his trials and tribulations are felt by the audience, without spoken words. Serkis is able to bring charisma, intensity, and introspection through body language and eyes alone. Truly a marvel.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great blockbuster film all around. Not relying solely on amazing visual effects, but also a very engaging and emotional plot spearheaded by Caesar and his ape nation. A wonderful way to reestablish the PoTA universe and build anticipation for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Grade: A-

Photo credits go to shopstak.com, collider.com, highdefdisknews.com, and imageevent.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (trailer): Movie Man Jackson Analysis

One of the upcoming forgotten movies of the summer seems to be Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. With Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow, and others coming before it, there is a feeling of this flying under the radar. From the looks of this new trailer coming out today, this may just be the viewing event of the blockbuster season.

This sequel to 2011’s surprise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes appears to take place a few years after (maybe a decade?) the simian plague has made apes basically counterparts to humans. This ape nation is led by Caesar, and from the looks of it, the human population is declining at a fast rate. The remaining population appears to be split as to go to war with this evolved species. Some appear to sympathize with them, while others feel that a war is imminent. Judging by the trailer, I would say the latter is a correct assumption…

This trailer will do what it needs to do in generating hype for the upcoming film. There are some nice seconds of Caesar speaking and of the camera semi-panning to his ape nation behind him in presumably the Redwood forest, and this effectively captures the feeling that the scale of this film will be epic. The CGI/motion capture looks even more polished than Rise, and that is saying something as Rise’s was quite good!

As most movies that employ him have shown, you cannot go wrong with Gary Oldman. His name alone brings credence to the movie, but don’t sleep on Keri Russell either. It also appears that this will be told from a both a human and simian standpoint, which is a good decision. Still, the best thing about this trailer is that while there seems to be more build than previous ones, nothing feels like a huge reveal or potential plot spoiler. I still am a bit hazy on details, but that is OK. When it comes to trailers, I am not looking to get full. I am just looking to whet my appetite.

Everyone has their most anticipated blockbuster, and this is it for the Movie Man. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be in theaters July 11th.