FlixChatter Review: Black Panther (2018)

I had been looking forward to write a review of this film since I saw it a week ago. By now practically everyone has seen this film, as it broke all kinds of box office records. Normally I don’t really care for numbers for a big tentpole films like this one, but I am thrilled for the success of Black Panther because simply it’s a terrific film that deserved to be seen on the big screen.

The film’s storyline is set just right after the events in Captain America: Civil War (a film I also admired a lot) where T’Challa, the then heir of a fictional African country Wakanda, lost his father. The young King of Wakanda returns his technologically-advanced and supremely wealthy home. It isn’t easy to be king however, as his ascend to the throne faced many challenges. Unlike many superhero films where the villains are mostly maniacal figure hell-bent to rule/destroy the world, T’Challa’s advisory turns out to be a personal one.

I won’t go into too much details about the plot as it’s best to go into this blindly as I did. The story takes place mostly in Wakanda, but it started off in a familiar urban setting in Oakland, California. I love how relatable the story is, and you truly feel for the dilemma of the characters involved. Rich in vibranium, the indestructible metal that’s used to make Captain America’s shield, Wakanda isolated themselves from other African nations and posed as a Third World country. Run by the King’s sister Shuri, her state-of-the-art tech lab would make even Tony Stark and Bond’s Q envious! This is a country that truly can stand alone in the universe and would never need any other nation’s help in any way. Therein lies the dilemma. Why doesn’t it help other nations and fellow Africans in need? The themes of refugees and the role (and responsibility) of a powerful nation is so fitting given the current global refugee crisis.

There is even a mid-credit scene that seems to directly address the current administration with its message about building bridges instead of barriers in times of crisis. The film doesn’t shy away from the current political climate, yet somehow it isn’t preachy and the story is still organic within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s admirable in and of itself the fact that the plot fits perfectly within MCU but yet manages stands alone and in many ways, be ahead of the pack. Because the conflicts are so personal to our hero, even when the action sequences are huge and bombastic, it never overpowered the story and there are real human lives at stake.

Let’s talk about the fantastically-diverse ensemble cast that made this film so great. From its intro in Captain America: Civil War, I already loved Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, but here we get to see his dramatic chops. The charismatic actor’s got an effortless regal vibe about him, plus he looks just as spectacular as a monarch as he is a superhero! He’s surrounded by a phenomenal cast, from veteran actors like Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, to relatively-new-but-accomplished young stars like Michael B. Jordan, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, current Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira. I have to admit I had a gleeful smile watching two of the Tolkien white guys, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman, reunited in this movie. The latter had more to do here and he provided some of the comic relief along with Wright’s Shuri.

Kudos to writers Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole for writing a villain who is multi-dimensional and someone we actually empathize with. Jordan displayed a layered performance as well as a towering physical magnetism as Erik Killmonger. Both he and Boseman are such strapping [read: hot] lads that their fight scenes are quite breathtaking to behold, but the action actually mean something instead of just a gratuitous display of destructive force [*cough* Man of Steel *cough*]. The filmmakers also created a conflict that has political/cultural significance that raises the stakes, yet keeping it grounded with human emotion.

I’d say the film might pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors, considering the number of female characters with a real arc instead of used merely as accessories. The real MVPs are Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest and a Wakandan spy, and Danai Gurira as Okoye, a Wakandan general of the all-female special forces. Gurira’s army of bad-ass women easily give Wonder Woman‘s Amazonians a run for their money. So gratifying to see SO many heroic women of color on screen who are strong in terms of physical strength as in their intellect and resolve. Nakia is an especially inspiring character worthy of the King’s love and admiration, and Nyong’o has an amazing screen presence. Forget Black Widow, I’d love to see a spinoff with Nakia and Okoye in their own standalone Marvel movie!

This is what I called ‘fun with substance’ kind of movie, which is what Marvel has excelled at by hiring indie filmmakers to helm their blockbusters. The film showed off the huge $200 mil budget in terms of visuals and action set pieces, but the best part of it is still the story and its characters. But man, what a feast for the eyes it truly is! Apparently Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige spent more $$$ on this film to get the wealthy-beyond-measure world of Wakanda just right (according to Vulture). The towering skyscrapers, the hi-tech trains/spaceships, not to mention the incredibly rich costumes that would hopefully earn Ruth E. Carter some Costume Design nominations. They look stylishly-futuristic while still honoring its tribal African roots.

I love that Black Panther has a ton of girl power both in front and behind the camera. Its cinematographer Rachel Morrison has just broke new ground as the first female DP ever to be nominated for an Oscar (for Mudbound)! Her stunning visual work here is quite Oscar-worthy as well. There’s such colorful vibrancy in this film that’s complemented by the lively score by Coogler’s longtime collaborator Ludwig Göransson.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this film. The stakes felt real and there were moments of genuine sadness, but it also didn’t forget to have fun because hey, it’s still a superhero movie. I LOVE the exhilarating car chases that shows off Black Panther’s prowess. Basically the entire scene in Busan, South Korea is just so freaking cool! I mentioned Shuri reminds me a bit of Bond’s Q, well, some of the action scenes here at times feels like a Bond film but thankfully without the male chauvinism aspect.

Now, it’s not a perfect film as there are some pacing issues and some parts seemed to go on longer than necessary. But really, those are really small quibbles in a largely masterful work by director Ryan Coogler. He’s joined a growing number of indie filmmakers like the Russo Brothers and Taika Waititi who’ve stepped up to the task of making such quality superhero films for Marvel. I’m glad that they now have a fruitful career ahead of them, as I want to see more of their work.

Diverse representation alone doesn’t make a film automatically good. But Black Panther did the diverse cast justice by giving them something worthy to do in a well-written, thought provoking film. And THAT is definitely something worth praising about. I hope Hollywood would finally realize that racial diversity and inclusion does pay at the movies! It may not be the first black comic-book-based movie, but it certainly the biggest and best one to date.

A friend from work put it best, ‘Forget about Marvel universe, give me a Wakanda universe!’ Hey I’m down with that! #WakandaForever


So have you seen ‘Black Panther’? Well, what did you think? 

10 reasons Deadpool movie won me over

To be perfectly honest, I never thought I’d actually be writing a review of Deadpool, let alone a top 10 list praising the movie. I hadn’t been anticipating this movie at all – crass, vulgar, foul-mouthed movies aren’t my thing and I’m not exactly a fan of Ryan Reynolds as an actor. But all the massive buzz got this movie blogger intrigued, I simply just had to find out what the fuss is about. Heck, I even went to the screening twice as the first time around the film couldn’t be played.

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Well, it ended up being a pleasant surprise and I totally get why people are flocking to see it. It’s shattered all kinds of box office records with $150mil domestic gross ($264 mil worldwide) which is unheard of for an R-rated flick opening in the month of February!

The Guardians of the Galaxy‘s director James Gunn weighed in on its success, “Deadpool was its own thing. THAT’S what people are reacting to. It’s original, it’s damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks.” (you can read his FB post here) Yep, I agree with him.

Here are 10 reasons why the Deadpool movie won me over:

1. The self-deprecating humor

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Photo from Archonia.com

I LOVE British comedies as they rarely shy away from poking fun of themselves. Deadpool relentlessly pokes fun at himself, the actor playing him, and even the studio that made it. That bit about the studio not being able to afford more X-Men characters in the movie got the biggest laughs. There are a plethora of jokes on Reynolds himself and his failed superhero flick Green Lantern. It’s also not afraid to make fun of famous people, that bit about David Beckham’s helium voice is absolutely spot on!

2. The retro throwback to 80s pop culture

As Reynolds is close to my age, I really appreciate the references to 80s pop culture, especially the music. I mean, WHAM! was huge back in high school, and we all were crushing on George Michael. Boy I’d never be able to listen to Careless Whisper the same way again.


I also laughed so hard when You’re the Inspiration by Chicago played on, that was my brother’s favorite band and he’d listen to it endlessly in the car until my ears bled!

3. That it IS a love story

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The marketing folks over at Fox have done some genius marketing for the film. The first time I saw this V-day poster I had a good chuckle. But hey, it turns out, Wade and Vanessa are genuinely in love, imagine that! The love story is actually pretty compelling and you get why he’d do whatever it takes to protect her. Reynolds and Morena Baccarin have a fun, playful chemistry together. I also think that it’s nice to see that they opted to hire an actress close to Reynold’s age as his love interest instead of some pretty young thing like they did in his previous superhero movie.

4. There are some bad ass women in this movie

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Brianna Hildebrand is quite memorable as the brooding Negasonic Teenage Warhead. She didn’t have many lines in the movie, but the brief exchanges between these two are pretty funny. There’s Gina Carano as the villain’s henchwoman (natch!) There’s even a hilarious bit when she dropped to the ground forcefully like Superman, obviously poking fun at the famous superhero landing. I think it’s even funnier the fact that Gina used to date Man of Steel himself, Henry Cavill. I think Vanessa herself is no damsel in distress. Even when Deadpool went to save her, she got some ass-kicking scenes of her own.

5.  I actually care about Wade Wilson

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Kudos to the writers (Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick) as well as Reynolds himself in making a character worth caring about. The fact that Wade didn’t start out to be a superhero had a lot to do with it. [spoiler alert!] He’s also the first superhero who suffered from cancer. I actually felt really bad for him, and for Vanessa when he left her. No matter how cool a character is, if you don’t give a reason for us to care for him/her, it’s hard for us to care for the movie, too. In a way, it made me think that his crazy antics is perhaps a means to cope with his pain.

The accelerated healing powers that he got as a result of the rogue experiment could’ve been another ho-hum origins story. Yet here it felt like the hero’s earned it and we root for him after all he’s been through. That superpower isn’t just cool for the action stuff, but it also made for some of the funnies, albeit cringe-worthy, jokes in the movie.

6. The awesome opening credit

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Ok, the opening credit is definitely one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie. It immediately establishes the tone and style of the movie, the extreme self-awareness and brazenness in roasting pretty much everyone involved. As we watched an action scene being frozen and played in slo-motion, we get quips like “the writers are ‘The Real Heroes Here” and “the director is ‘An Overpaid Tool” and the likes. They made fun of some of their own movie clichés like having a [one note] British villain and gratuitous cameo. It’s as if they’re making their own ‘Honest Trailer’ video of their own movie, ahah.

7. Hilarious supporting characters

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Ok so the villain is pretty much one-note and humorless (Ed Skrein), though all the jokes about his English teeth was indeed funny. But Karan Soni as Dopinder the Indian cab driver and T.J. Miller as Wade’s BFF Weasel had some hysterical lines. I think the ‘avocado’ line that Weasel said to Wade after seeing his face after the experiment is so mean yet because they’re good friends, you can’t help but laugh while cringing at the same time. Oh, and Colossus has never been funnier here w/ his Russian accent. Most of his scenes with Deadpool are simply hysterical, and the fact that he’s so polite provides an amusing contrast to the juvenile & irreverent Wade.

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8. Biting wit delivered with fun action sequences

Ok so the R-rating is absolutely warranted and it’s definitely more violent than John Wick where a lot of the shots fired are quick and blurry. But just like that film, this film certainly had some stylish action sequences. First-time director Tim Miller, who had a background in visual effects, did a nice job staging the high-octane action throughout. But what made it even more memorable is the biting wit that accompany the action. Having the protagonist constantly wise-cracking as he shoots and make human kabobs out of people certainly makes it extra fun to watch.

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9. Ryan Reynolds is perfect in the role

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You can’t make a top 10 list about Deadpool and not mention Ryan Reynolds. In many ways, he’s the reason the film worked as he & the filmmakers have fought hard to have their brazen vision of this comic-book character come to life in this adaptation. He’s played this character before in the lame X-Men Origins: Wolverine but it barely made a mark. But here, he got to showcase what he does best, that is comedy. I really don’t care for him in dramatic roles or even as a typical action hero. But here he’s so at ease at making fun of himself which is a brazen act in and of itself. Reynolds definitely got another leash on his superhero life as Deadpool will become a massive franchise after its gargantuan box office take. I’d say he should stick to this genre of action comedy as that’s what he does best.

10. The fact that it turns the conventional superhero formula on its head

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I think the whole concept of a raunchy superhero movie alone isn’t a recipe for success. Yes it’s different from the PG-13 stuff that Marvel & DC put out there, but if that’s all it’s got going for it, I don’t think the movie would be as successful. I think the fact that the movie IS relentlessly hilarious means the humor hits the mark. The “breaking the fourth wall” style also works well for the movie, which apparently is loyal to the comics. I’m not familiar w/ it but things that work in the comic books don’t always translate well on screen, so props to the writers & filmmakers for somehow making it work. It actually creates some of the funniest bits in the movie and makes Deadpool likable as he’s sort of ‘one of us.’ The pop-culture commentary and zings also made it fresh and has huge appeal to millennials AND baby boomers alike.

Now, despite all the praise, this isn’t a movie I’d readily watch again though. The graphic violence, sex scenes, full frontal nudity, and that whole scene at the strip club are gratuitous and not something I enjoy watching. But overall, this movie is pretty darn entertaining. I give props to the filmmakers for delivering on the promise of an unconventional superhero movie. It does exactly what it says on the tin and it’s refreshingly daring in its approach.

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So, what do you think of Deadpool? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations

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Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really  looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:

1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.

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Shane Black on the set with RDJ

2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:

I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.

I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.

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Now, THAT’s the money shot

3. Going back to basicsbut somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.

4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.

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Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.

IronMan3_TheMandarin5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.

Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.

6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!

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7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.

The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.

8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.

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There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.

9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!

IronMan3_RebeccaHall10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.


Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.

Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.


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What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?