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The Marvel Cinematic Universe have created a cinematic empire. Each film becomes a bigger event than the next and have all challenged each other to get bigger and more fantastical. But one thing that haven't always challenged each other on is depth. Now that's not to say that I haven't been a fan of the Marvel films; I most certainly have. But along with all of its success, Marvel has had a bit of "sameness" to their films. The forgettable villian challenges the team and they win in the end. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR started to shake things up and now we have the real shakeup with BLACK PANTHER, the most grounded, powerful and surprising Marvel film to date.


Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa, the son of King T'Chaka who recently passed during the events in Civil War. Now T'Challa ascends to the throne, as King of Wakanda, the fictional African nation that on the surface seems like a third world country but is actually a booming futuristic society that is completely powered by Vibranium, a rare meteoric ore with energy-manipulating capabilities. T'Challa is also The Black Panther, the warrior from Wakanda who's suit is also powered by Vibranium. He accepts the throne and his place in the world, but two thieves have other plans. Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is an underground arms dealer with a fancy suped up arm and Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) is a man with a killer of a past and a lot of scars on his body to prove it. They both seemingly have the same plan to invade Wakanda, but when Killmonger's true plan is revealed it deepens the story and sets it off in a thrilling way.


Killmonger is brutal; he kills without remorse and believes the end justifies the means. But he also has a strong and very important message; that the balance of justice for the black community must be addressed. He has felt nothing but pain his entire life and seen the pain that racism has played and he wants no more of it. He's waited for this moment and he will take it no matter the cost. And that's where the story gets tricky. Wakanda is a vibrant African nation who has taken care of their people and thrived with the use of Vibranium. But they have also left the rest of the world in the dark, essentially ignoring the cries of the fallen. So that's the spin; the bad guy is fighting for a just idea and the good guys aren't completely good. It's a moral quandary that makes for a wondrous twist into the Marvel Universe. This is a film that challenges not only how our favorite Superhero franchise is built but also how we look at heroes and villains in film. 


The cast is extraordinary. Chadwick Boseman gives a powered and stoic performance as our newly minted King and questioning hero. It's a tough role to play; to be both regal, grounded, and still charming and fun. He's the opposite of some of the motor mouthed Marvel heroes and he excels at every turn. Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger is hands down the best villain the Marvel Universe has brought on the screen (Sorry Loki). The character is layered, troubled, and full of confliction. And Jordan's performance is pure fire. He makes you question who is in the right and who isn't. His performance is electrifying.


Also of note is the fact that the female characters are all very well drawn: Lupita Nyong'o is no simple love interest. She's a badass warrior spy on her own who's calling is to help those who need help the most. She's not about to sit in a kitchen and wait for her man to come home. Danai Gurira (giving another powerhouse performance that's very different from The Walking Dead) is a thrilling presence as well. Powerful and funny, her Wakanda warrior is smart and aware of everything around her. She will question anything that seems out of line and Gurira gives her a sparkling soul. And as T'Challa's younger scientist sister Letitia Wright is hilarious, full of charm, and ready to jump into battle as well as tech up her older brother’s suit. No one simply stands around here. Also having a hellava good time is motion capture artist Andy Serkis, who's much less serious but a blast to watch.


Ryan Coogler's world of Wakanda is brilliant storytelling and one that will actually change the universe in a moral and ethical way. This is a film that speaks on so many levels, levels beyond just this franchise. It's the first big action blockbuster that truly feels important. And if feels that way because it is.



SCREENPLAY BY Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole BASED ON THE CHARACTERS CREATED BY Stan Lee and Jack Kirby DIRECTED BY Ryan Coogler STARRING Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis.





For a dialogue driven film, there's no one better at it than Richard Linklater. He of the BEFORE SUNRISE/SUNSET/MIDNIGHT, WAKING LIFE, & BOYHOOD. The man who tackles head on into any genre he feels like telling a story in. And so he takes on the buddy road film and a War retrospective with the somber LAST FLAG FLYING. We follow Larry "Doc" Shepherd (played with a quiet authority by Steve Carell) as he revisits two old buddies from the war (that war being Vietnam): Sal Nealon (a foulmouthed and drunken Bryan Cranston) and Richard Mueller (a humble now preacher Laurence Fishburne). They share between them a lot of good memories, and a lot of nightmarish ones as well. Doc has a favor to ask them, and he simply can't take no for an answer. And that answer is what sends the three of them on a road trip together.


Doc's son enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and subsequently died in Baghdad. The military described it as an ambush and Doc needs to bring his boy home. So, he enlists the help of his old war buddies to help build up the courage he needs to get this done. And through this long overdue reunion, each of the three men find themselves, even though they didn't realize they were searching for anything at all. Linklater stages the entire affair grounded in a somber tone but flourishes it with light and humor. He makes you feel like these men need each other, at least for now they do. Last Flag Flying is also a spiritual sequel, if you will, to the 1973 Hal Ashby film The Last Detail which starred Jack Nicholson. It was based on a novel by Darryl Ponicsan and the sequel to that book is the basis of this film. The names aren't the same, nor are the events, but the feeling is, as is the mix of tone. Last Flag Flying is a thought provoking film, sometimes warm, sometimes meandering and sometimes heartbreaking. You don't have to have been in a war to know that it's hell, and these men have certainly seen hell. It's the living moments that happen after that are truly the hardest, and even if the film doesn't always land completely on solid ground, it shines a lot of life into the moments in between and warmly invites you on the journey.




WRITTEN BY Richard Linklater and Daniel Ponicsan DIRECTED BY Richard Linklater STARRING Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne. Playing as part of the 2017 55th Annual New York Film Festival.





Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) is a screenwriter whose wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) disappeared 20 years ago and was presumed dead. Although heartbroken, he found the strength to move on and eventually fell in love with an astrophysicist named Sylvia, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. They live together and Ismael has been hacking away on his latest script. Life moves slowly and his family hates him. Then one day Carlotta shows up at their house. Where has she been? Why was she gone? And if she isn't dead, what exactly did happen? Alongside all of this we cut away to the film that Ismael is writing, an all too complicated narrative film that plays along Ismael's midlife crisis. If you're familiar with Director (and co-writer) Arnaud Desplechin's work, there's a lot to spool over. If you're not, this film may not be the trigger to get you invested in his filmography.


ISMAEL'S GHOSTS premiered at Cannes this year and now is showcased at the NYFF with a longer Director's Cut and it feels like it. Meaning, there's way too much of everything. It's an overstuffed mess, but at points it's an interesting one. The acting is all around great (especially a sublime Marion Cotillard) and the cinematography by Irina Lubtchansky is breathtaking. But the screenplay is truly a mess and the film is all over the place warranting not a directors long cut but many cuts from the director to shape this film up. There will be a moment that draws you in and immediately after another moment that will perplex you and offer no answer to what it means. For hardcore fans, perhaps ISMAEL'S GHOSTS is a journey worth taking. But it's not one that I will be recommending.



WRITTEN BY Arnaud Desplechin, Léa Mysius, Julie Peyr DIRECTED BY Arnaud Desplechin STARRING Mattieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Playing as part of the 2017 55th Annual New York Film Festival.