Black Panther
Chadwick Boseman Rises to the Occasion as African King / Marvel Superhero
  Chadwick Boseman has already made quite a career out of portraying a variety of prominent African Americans, from football star Floyd Little (The Express), to baseball great Jackie Robinson (42), to Godfather of Soul James Brown (Get On Up) to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Marshall). The versatile actor’s efforts have been appreciated by the NAACP, which has seen fit to nominate him for five Image Awards.

  Although the Black Panther is a fictional character, the role is ostensibly of no less significance than the historical figures Chadwick has played in the past. That’s because black kids have rarely had a superhero that looks like them to root for, even in Africa, where the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan, was white, too.

  Consequently, advance ticket sales for this Afrocentric origins tale have been through the roof, and I’m happy to report that audiences will not be disappointed. For, the film not only features a dignified protagonist and a socially relevant plotline, but it’s also a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. 

  The picture was directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed) who made the most of his $200 million budget, between visually-captivating special effects and an A-list cast, which includes Academy Award-winners Forest Whitaker (for The Last King of Scotland) and Lupita Nyong’o (for 12 Years a Slave), Oscar-nominee Angela Bassett (for What’s Love Got to Do with It), as well as Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya and Sterling K. Brown. 

  At the point of departure, we learn that in ancient times the five tribes of Africa went to war over vibranium, a meteorite, which imbues its holder with superhuman powers. Fast-forward to the present and we find T’Challa (Boseman) being summoned home to the fictional nation of Wakanda to assume the reins of power in the wake of the passing of his father, King T’Chaka (John Kani). 

  Complicating matters is the fact that a number of other warriors covet the throne and that a South African arms smuggler (Andy Serkis) is trying to get his hands on some vibranium. Not to worry. T’Challa has a capable CIA agent (Martin Freeman) and a trio of loyal females on his side in his 16-year-old sister (Letitia Wright), his ex-girlfriend (Nyong’o) and a two-fisted bodyguard (Danai Gurira). 

  What ensues is an edge-of-your-seat-rollercoaster-ride every bit as entertaining as any Spider-Man, Wonder Woman or other superhero adventure. Simply ‘Marvel’-ous!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for pervasive violent action sequences and a rude gesture
Running time: 134 minutes
Production Studios: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

 

 

Samson
Biblical Epic Recounts Exploits of Hebrew He-man Handpicked by God
  Samson is a popular Biblical figure, perhaps best known for being blessed with super-human strength as long as his hair was long. However, regular Sunday school attendees know that there’s a lot more to know about the Hebrew he-man introduced in the Book of Judges. 

  First of all, the arc of his life, mirrored that of Jesus Christ in many ways. For instance, both were the product of a miraculous birth announced by angels; Jesus’ mom was a virgin, Samson’s was barren, and each was betrayed by a confidante — Judas and Delilah — paid in silver coins. Each ultimately fulfilled a prophecy by delivering their people, the Israelites. And so forth.

  Co-directed by Bruce Macdonald and Gabriel Sabloff, Samson is an epic biopic which fleshes out the one-dimensional warrior into a vulnerable soul with a full range of emotions. The picture stars Taylor James in the title role, and Caitlin Leahy as Delilah. 

  The film unfolds in Gaza in 1170 BC, which is where we find the Jews enslaved by the Philistines. But as Samson matured from a boy into a man, it was hard to ignore his threatening combination of ambition and combat skills. So, to show the upstart who’s boss, the sadistic King Balek (Billy Zane) arranges a duel with Bolcom (Dylan Williams), a seemingly-invincible behemoth from Egypt. 

  At first, Samson falters during the fight, prompting a gloating Philistine to ask, “Where’s your Hebrew champion now?” a query ostensibly inspired by the Edward G. Robinson’s classic line, “Where’s your Moses now?” uttered in The Ten Commandments. Not to worry. Samson picks himself up off the ground and disposes of the imposing opponent in due time.

  Rather than recount what ensues, suffice to say that the story faithfully follows the parable’s plotline. That ought to resonate with evangelicals who see the scriptures as history and thus prefer a literal interpretation of the Bible. So don’t be surprised to see Samson slay a lion with his bare hands or suddenly lose all his power when shorn of his locks. 

  An old school religious epic, harking back to Cecil B. Demille, replete with mob scenes and breathtaking panoramas.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, including battle sequences
Running time: 109 minutes
Production Studios: Boomtown Films / Pure Flix Productions’
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment

 

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam’s Kapsules
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening February 23, 2018

 

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Annihilation (R for violence, profanity, sexuality and bloody images) Sci-fi thriller, based on Jeff VanderMeer’s best-seller of the same name, about a biologist (Natalie Portman) who volunteers to lead a secret mission into the same environmental disaster area where her husband (Oscar Issac) has disappeared. With Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Every Day (PG-13 for profanity, underage drinking, suggestive material and mature themes) Adaptation of David Levithan’s New York Times best-seller about a 16-year-old girl (Angourie Rice) who falls in love with a ghost that inhabits a different body every day. Supporting cast includes Debby Ryan, Maria Bello and Justice Smith.

Game Night (R for profanity, sexuality and violence) Crime comedy revolving around a couple (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) that invites some friends to play a murder mystery, only to have the party turn into a real-life whodunit when the husband’s brother (Kyle Chandler) gets kidnapped by what were supposed to be fake thugs. With Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Harris, Camille Chen and Kylie Bunbury.

 

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Curvature (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about a scientist (Lyndsy Fonseca) who travels back in time after a mysterious phone call in order to stop herself from committing a murder. With Linda Hamilton, Glenn Morshower and Noah Bean.

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? (Unrated) Justice delayed documentary investigating the events surrounding the 1946 killing of a black man in an Alabama convenience store by the owner, the director’s great-grandfather, a Ku Klux Klansman.

Half Magic (R for frontal nudity, profanity, graphic sexuality and drug use) Heather Graham wrote, directed and stars in this battle-of-the-sexes comedy revolving around three BFFs’ (Graham, Angela Kinsey and Stephanie Beatriz) dating and work woes. With Molly Shannon, Johnny Knoxville and Thomas Lennon.

Hannah (Unrated) Charlotte Rampling plays the title character in this intimate portrait of a housekeeper drifting between denial and reality in the wake of her husband’s (Andre Wilms) being sent up the river. Featuring Stephanie Van Vyve, Simon Bisschop and Jessica Fanhan. (In French and English with subtitles.)

Hichki (Unrated) Bollywood coming-of-age drama about a young woman (Rani Mukerji) with Tourette syndrome who turns her weakness into a strength en route to landing a teaching position at an elite prep school. With Supriya Pilgaonkar and Ivan Rodrigues. (In Hindi with subtitles.)

Mute (Unrated) Futuristic sci-fi, set in Berlin in the 2050s, chronicling a mute bartender’s (Alexander Skarsgard) desperate search for his missing girlfriend with the help of a couple of U.S. Army surgeons (Paul Ruddd and Justin Theroux) on a mission of their own. Support cast includes Seyneb Saleh, Robert Sheehan and Noel Clarke.

Survivors Guide to Prison (Unrated) Incarceration documentary with practical tips for felons preparing for a stint behind bars. Featuring commentary by Danny Trejo, RZA, Ice-T, Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip.

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