FilmWeek: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Early Man,’ ‘The Party’ and a discussion on the 2018 foreign film Oscar nom’s

 FILMWEEK FOR FEBRUARY 16, 2018

LISTEN HERE: FilmWeek: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Early Man,’ ‘The Party’ and a discussion on the 2018 foreign film Oscar nom’s

 

(L-R) Actors Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, and Chadwick Boseman arrive at the red carpet of the Seoul premiere of 'Black Panther' on February 5, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea.
(L-R) Actors Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Chadwick Boseman arrive at the red carpet of the Seoul premiere of ‘Black Panther’ on February 5, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. 

HAN MYUNG-GU/GETTY IMAGES FOR DISNEY

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Christy Lemire, Charles Solomon, and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases.

CRITICS’ HITS

Christy, Charles & Tim: “Black Panther”

MIXED FEELINGS

Christy: “Looking Glass”

Tim & Charles: “Monkey King 3”

MISSES

Christy: “Poop Talk”

GUESTS:

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC, Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com; he tweets @CinemaInMind

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine

Christy Lemire, film critic for KPCC, RogerEbert.com and co-host of YouTube’s “What the Flick?”;she tweets @christylemire


Review Black Panther

By: Tim Cogshell

Black Panther, the first studio produced, major motion picture to feature a Black superhero and a predominantly Black cast is a very good movie, exceptional beyond its big-budget entertainment value in a number of ways. The film is full of all the standard big-budget entertainments.  Computer-generated bells-and-whistles are all over the place, from vistas of the fictional African land of Wakanda to the sleek, midnight-black tech-enhanced superhero suit of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), there is plenty of Wow, Smash and Bang!  Yes, Black Panther is as well-produced a Marvel movie crap-fest as any, but none of that CG-poo is why this is a very good, indeed often exceptional superhero flick.  

High praise from a critic – me –  who has been experiencing a diminishing return of enjoyment-to-time-spent-in-the-theatre ratio as related to most recent superhero fare. I was disappointed (to say the least) by Man of Steel, Superman V. Batman and Justice League.  Deadpool was a hit but I thought it was a crude, loutish bore of a movie, while Suicide Squad made me want to kill myself, if not the filmmakers of that pile.  As for those Thor movies, which many enjoy, and did have a certain “Shakespeare for Dummies” quality, they’ve become tiresome.  Wonder Woman, Logan and the first Guardians of the Galaxy movies were all good. Those movies, like Black Panther, issue a certain humor and charm along with a measure of gravitas with their requisite CG crap.

In any case, Black Panther does not disappoint even a fair weather fanboy such as myself. Its greatest achievement is its ability to be a movie in deep contemplation of tribulations of Black people while not being a movie against or even about White people. It even manages to render one white guy (only one) a heroic, if comic, figure. Martin Freeman reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War as CIA operative Ross, is a comic-hero repping White folks in much that same way that Black sidekicks and foils have provided comic relief for the White heroes of all other superhero films.  It’s Anthony Mackie’s job in the Avengers series. He’s a good sport and Martin is too.

Written by Ryan Coogler (who also directs) and Joe Robert Cole (television’s “American Crime Story”), Black Panther is a film with wide appeal and deliberate intentions. It’s moored in contemporary issues wrapped in imaginary circumstances. Some of those issues  were relevant even when the hero was conceived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1966 about the time of the creation of Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which was founded later the same year by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in Oakland, California.

Oakland, CA circa 1997 is where and when the movie opens.  Aside from being the birthplace of the Black Panther Party it’s also the city from which Coogler hails; and a city that has suffered more than its share of poverty, crime and other depredations over the years.  In 1997 Oakland was the polar opposite of the mystical nation of Wakanda, a hi-tech land-of-plenty with an abundant Black population and the fictional element vibranium, source of the nation’s advanced technology and wealth. A source of power, actually, that Wakanda has chosen not to share with the world. Not to share with other Black people – children of Africa one might say – oppressed and left behind because of the choices of the many kings of Wakanda.

In this narrative the miseries of the descendants of Africa, miseries that continue to this day, are principally because the Kings of Wakanda will not share with their kin the means to better themselves and rise. Perhaps even rule. In this scenario “Whitey” is mostly irrelevant. Which is refreshing. Although, one of the principal bad guys in Black Panther, Klaue (Andy Serkis), is a white guy.  Klaue is a carry over from Avengers: Age of Ultron (also a whiny bore of a movie), and Andy Serkis plays him like a raving loon. Klaue is a crazy, murderous mercenary, but he’s not particularly racist. Which is also refreshing.

Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa, the Black Panther, is stately, suave and heroic. His accent, ever so slightly Kenyan, yet not Kenyan, is measured to register but never overwhelm a subtle, clean performance. He’s never loud. He is never angry. He is guilty over being unable to save his father (killed in a previous film), but not vengeful. He is, perhaps, a bit naive about what it means to be king, and he is struggling with the disturbing legacy of his forefathers.

Mostly, he’s worried about his people.

The theft of enough vibranium to wreak havoc in the world ostensibly drives the action of Black Panther. T’Challa and his royal entourage must prevent the ore and the location of Wakanda from becoming known to the world. To this end the film is ordinary in its superhero movie pursuits. There are a half-dozen big set piece battle sequences wherein all the laws of physics are broken in service of cool… stuff. T’Challa’s praetorian guard, Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead”) as General  Okoye and  Lupita Nyong’o (12 Twelve Years a Slave), as Nakia, an accomplished spy and warrior, lead most of the battles and do a lot of the cool stuff.  These are some serious ass-kicking women who find themselves saving their king’s ass on more than a few occasions. This is a correct representation of the relationship of most Black women to most Black men in my personal experience as a Black man. That said, the Panther’s mom is played by Angela Bassett with an overly meek demeanor for a Queen Mother. She looks like Toni Morrison with thick white braids, but she has no agency. She’s the only gal in the movie that don’t break something (or somebody) on purpose. I didn’t care for that.

As noted, beyond the ordinary pursuits of a Marvel comic book adaptation Black Panther has its present-day concerns. It’s concerned with the lives of boys raised without fathers and what that manifests. It’s concerned with our personal responsibility to set ourselves free from the circumstances that oppress us (whatever our race or creed or gender), and it questions what we should be prepared to do to affect our own circumstances. The slave-turned-preacher-turned-freedom fighter-turned-martyr, Nat Turner, posed these questions. Black Panther is concerned with our responsibility to our sisters and brothers when they are being subjugated – when – we have the wherewithal to free them. The firebrand abolitionist preacher and American terrorist, John Brown, felt that responsibility, too. To that end we have the extraordinary film-stealing performance of Michael B. Jordan (previous Coogler-written-and-directed films Fruitvale Station and Creed) as Erik Killmonger. One imagines the character’s name gives away his nature. Yet it does not speak to the rationale of his raison d’etre; a righteous indignation of Nat Turner and John Brown proportions, that, as with those heroic figures, is not exactly wrong.

Killmonger is pissed and he’s got good reason to be pissed. We empathize with him even when we cannot condone his actions. Michael B. Jordan gives a performance in this movie akin to Heath Ledger’s Joker in Batman Begins. He’s that good. He’s gorgeous. He’s darkly funny and he’s hellbent on vengeance. Hellbent. And sometimes we root for him. At least I did. Sometimes. Michael B. is acting his ass off in this deeply-layered, highly-motivated role. He embodies every young Black man (perhaps every person) who has ever been filled with an abiding hatred of a system that wrongly stole their life away – and all those who stood by while it happened – and did nothing. Especially the Kings.

Next year this time – awards season – I’m going to remember this performance. I am, and you will too.

FilmWeek: ‘12 Strong,’ ‘Den of Thieves,’ ‘Forever My Girl,’ and more…

LISTEN HERE: FilmWeek: ‘12 Strong,’ ‘Den of Thieves,’ ‘Forever My Girl,’ and more

 

Pablo Schreiber, Curtis Jackson and Evan Jones star in Den of Thieves.
Pablo Schreiber, Curtis Jackson and Evan Jones star in Den of Thieves. 

DANIEL MCFADDEN

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Lael Loewenstein and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases.

EXPANDING THIS WEEK:

This segment is being updated.

GUESTS:

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC, Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com; he tweets @CinemaInMind

FilmWeek: ‘The Post,’ ‘Phantom Thread,’ ‘Molly’s Game’ and more

Listen Here:

FilmWeek: ‘The Post,’ ‘Phantom Thread,’ ‘Molly’s Game’ and more

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE POST.
Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE POST. 

PHOTO CREDIT: NIKO TAVERNISE

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Christy Lemire and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases.

CRITICS’ HITS

Christy: “Phantom Thread,” “Molly’s Game” & “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”

Tim: “The Post,” “Pitch Perfect 3,” “Hostiles” & “Bright”

MIXED FEELINGS

Christy: “The Greatest Showman” & “Happy End”

Tim: “All The Money In The World”

MISSES

Christy: “Downsizing”

Tim: “Father Figures”

GUESTS:

Christy Lemire, film critic for KPCC, RogerEbert.com and co-host of YouTube’s “What the Flick?”; she tweets @christylemire

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC, Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com; he tweets @CinemaInMind


 

 


FilmWeek: ‘Justice League,’ ‘The Star,’ ‘Wonder’ and more

Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay in WONDER.
Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay in WONDER. 

DALE ROBINETTE.

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Lael Loewenstein, Tim Cogshell, and Charles Solomon review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

  • Justice League” in wide release
  • The Star” in wide release
  • Wonder” in wide release
  • Mudbound” at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center, Laemmle’s NoHo, The Landmark and on Netflix
  • The Breadwinner” at the Nuart Theatre
  • Roman J. Israel, Esq.” at AMC Century City and ArcLight Hollywood
  • The Divine Order” at Laemmle’s Playhouse and Laemmle’s Royal
  • Wait For Your Laugh” at Laemmle’s Royal, Laemmle’s Town Center and The Egyptian (Saturday night’s showing at The Egyptian will be followed by a discussion with director Jason Wise, Dick van Dyke and Dan Harmon)

CRITICS’ HITS

Tim: “Mudbound” & “The Divine Order”

Lael: “The Breadwinner,” “Mudbound” & “The Divine Order”

Charles: “The Breadwinner”

MIXED FEELINGS

Tim: “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Lael: “Justice League” & “Wonder”

Charles: “Wait For Your Laugh”

 

MISSES!

Lael & Charles: “The Star”

 

GUESTS:

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC, Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com; he tweets @CinemaInMind

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine

‘Trouble Is My Business’

Trouble Is My Business with Brittney Powell: Femme fatale in humorous homage to old film noirsBrittney Powell in Trouble Is My Business
Trouble Is My Business is a humorous homage to film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, among them John Huston‘s The Maltese Falcon and Orson Welles‘ Touch of Evil. Konkle stars in the sort of role that back in the ’40s and ’50s belonged to the likes of Humphrey BogartRobert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd. As the femme fatale, Brittney Powell is supposed to evoke memories of Jane GreerLizabeth ScottLauren Bacall, and Claire Trevor.

‘Trouble Is My Business’: Humorous film noir homage evokes memories of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ & ‘Touch of Evil’

A crunchy, witty, and often just plain funny mash-up of classic noir tropes, from hard-boiled private dicks to the easy-on-the-eyes femme fatales – in addition to dialogue worthy of Dashiell Hammett and, occasionally, Mel Brooks – Trouble Is My Business means business, but it doesn’t mind having a good chuckle as it walks the dark and winding path of double-crosses, corruption, and death.

Directed by Tom Konkle, who also co-wrote and co-stars with Brittney Powell as the dick and the dame, Trouble Is My Business– no direct connection to Raymond Chandler’s 1939 Philip Marlowe short story – features Konkle as private eye Roland Drake, the quintessential representation of the 1940s noir detective – no pretty boy – with a visage having more in common with Robert Mitchum, who played Marlowe in the 1975 neo-noir Farewell My, Lovely, than Humphrey Bogart, who was Sam Spade in the movie about the black bird.

Neither of those guys were pretty boys either, which is why we bought them – and that’s why we buy Konkle as a forlorn detective taking the rap for the death of a girl he was supposed to save.

Brittney Powell is also a veteran actor whose credits include Brunhilda in Xena: Warrior Princess, among several auspicious roles in all manner of film and television. She’s very good as Jennifer Montemar, a part written by Powell herself so she could play the kind of woman she always wanted.

Jennifer has a good deal more humor than, say, Mary Astor’s desperate femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon. Yet Powell (eventually) gives the character even more of an edge than Jane Greer’s blond, man-eating girl-shark in Out of the Past.

Those movies and a number of others that only true aficionados of the genre will notice are referenced in Trouble Is My Business. For fans, catching little homages to Double Indemnity and Murder, My Sweet is lovely, but the film Trouble Is My Business circles most often is the great Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

Shades of Welles’ evil Police Captain Hank Quinlan show up in the character played by veteran actor Vernon Wells (The Road Warrior): Detective Barry Tate, a sadistic sociopath of a cop that Drake must eventually face – alongside his other demons.

Trouble Is My Business trailer.

The twists and turns of the plot in Trouble Is My Business are every bit as serpentine as those in most noir. I still don’t know what’s going on in The Maltese Falcon, and I’m not sure I know exactly what’s going on in this movie either – but as is the case with most noir, who cares? It’s the ride and the characters and the very tone itself – not the stories – that make noir…  noir.

To that end, the filmmakers here use another film noir trope: artifice. The film noirs of old were generally inexpensive productions; some were actually cheap. They usually faked everything from locations and lighting to the existence of walls and ceilings where there were none.

The use of darkness was not necessarily a stroke of filmmaking genius in the production of noir, it was at times a necessity because there was usually very little production design and often lots of stuff to hide. The leading man never changed clothes because the leading lady‘s wardrobe was more important.

Tragic Gay Star

Trouble Is My Business uses the artifice of props and costume and special effects to create 1940s Los Angeles exteriors and lush interiors all of which is slightly unreal, if not a little surreal. Orson Welles, himself a master of the unreal in a number of ways, would be most impressed.

Trouble Is My Business (2017)  Dir.: Tom Konkle. Scr.: Tom Konkle & Brittney Powell. Cast: Tom Konkle. Brittney Powell. Vernon Wells. David Beeler. Steve Tom. Ben Pace. Mark Teich. Doug Spearman. Jordana Capra. Benton Jennings. William Jackson. E. Sean Griffin.

Trouble Is My Business cast info via the IMDb.

Brittney Powell and Tom Konkle Trouble Is My Business trailer and image: Lumen Actus.

Trouble Is My Business with Brittney Powell: Femme fatale in humorous homage to old film noirsBrittney Powell in Trouble Is My Business

Trouble Is My Business is a humorous homage to film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, among them John Huston‘s The Maltese Falcon and Orson Welles‘ Touch of Evil. Konkle stars in the sort of role that back in the ’40s and ’50s belonged to the likes of Humphrey BogartRobert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd. As the femme fatale, Brittney Powell is supposed to evoke memories of Jane GreerLizabeth ScottLauren Bacall, and Claire Trevor.

‘Trouble Is My Business’: Humorous film noir homage evokes memories of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ & ‘Touch of Evil’

A crunchy, witty, and often just plain funny mash-up of classic noir tropes, from hard-boiled private dicks to the easy-on-the-eyes femme fatales – in addition to dialogue worthy of Dashiell Hammett and, occasionally, Mel Brooks – Trouble Is My Business means business, but it doesn’t mind having a good chuckle as it walks the dark and winding path of double-crosses, corruption, and death.

Directed by Tom Konkle, who also co-wrote and co-stars with Brittney Powell as the dick and the dame, Trouble Is My Business– no direct connection to Raymond Chandler’s 1939 Philip Marlowe short story – features Konkle as private eye Roland Drake, the quintessential representation of the 1940s noir detective – no pretty boy – with a visage having more in common with Robert Mitchum, who played Marlowe in the 1975 neo-noir Farewell My, Lovely, than Humphrey Bogart, who was Sam Spade in the movie about the black bird.

Neither of those guys were pretty boys either, which is why we bought them – and that’s why we buy Konkle as a forlorn detective taking the rap for the death of a girl he was supposed to save.

Brittney Powell is also a veteran actor whose credits include Brunhilda in Xena: Warrior Princess, among several auspicious roles in all manner of film and television. She’s very good as Jennifer Montemar, a part written by Powell herself so she could play the kind of woman she always wanted.

Jennifer has a good deal more humor than, say, Mary Astor’s desperate femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon. Yet Powell (eventually) gives the character even more of an edge than Jane Greer’s blond, man-eating girl-shark in Out of the Past.

Those movies and a number of others that only true aficionados of the genre will notice are referenced in Trouble Is My Business. For fans, catching little homages to Double Indemnity and Murder, My Sweet is lovely, but the film Trouble Is My Business circles most often is the great Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

Shades of Welles’ evil Police Captain Hank Quinlan show up in the character played by veteran actor Vernon Wells (The Road Warrior): Detective Barry Tate, a sadistic sociopath of a cop that Drake must eventually face – alongside his other demons.

Trouble Is My Business trailer.

The twists and turns of the plot in Trouble Is My Business are every bit as serpentine as those in most noir. I still don’t know what’s going on in The Maltese Falcon, and I’m not sure I know exactly what’s going on in this movie either – but as is the case with most noir, who cares? It’s the ride and the characters and the very tone itself – not the stories – that make noir…  noir.

To that end, the filmmakers here use another film noir trope: artifice. The film noirs of old were generally inexpensive productions; some were actually cheap. They usually faked everything from locations and lighting to the existence of walls and ceilings where there were none.

The use of darkness was not necessarily a stroke of filmmaking genius in the production of noir, it was at times a necessity because there was usually very little production design and often lots of stuff to hide. The leading man never changed clothes because the leading lady‘s wardrobe was more important.

Tragic Gay Star

Trouble Is My Business uses the artifice of props and costume and special effects to create 1940s Los Angeles exteriors and lush interiors all of which is slightly unreal, if not a little surreal. Orson Welles, himself a master of the unreal in a number of ways, would be most impressed.

Trouble Is My Business (2017)  Dir.: Tom Konkle. Scr.: Tom Konkle & Brittney Powell. Cast: Tom Konkle. Brittney Powell. Vernon Wells. David Beeler. Steve Tom. Ben Pace. Mark Teich. Doug Spearman. Jordana Capra. Benton Jennings. William Jackson. E. Sean Griffin.

Trouble Is My Business cast info via the IMDb.

Brittney Powell and Tom Konkle Trouble Is My Business trailer and image: Lumen Actus.

FilmWeek: ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle,’ ‘Battle of the Sexes’ and a tribute to Harry Dean Stanton…

FilmWeek for 

FilmWeek: ‘mother!’, ‘American Assassin,’ ‘Brad’s Status’ and a TIFF check-in

by FilmWeek

LISTEN HERE:  FilmWeek: ‘mother!’, ‘American Assassin,’ ‘Brad’s Status’ and a TIFF check-in

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Director Darren Aronofsky, actors Domhnall Gleeson and Jennifer Lawrence and producer Scott Franklin attend the UK Premiere of “mother!” at the Odeon Leicester Square.JOHN PHILLIPS/GETTY IMAGES FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Amy Nicholson and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

CORRECTION: During FilmWeek, Yance Ford, the director of the film “Strong Island” was identified as female. Ford is a transgender man. We regret the error.

Critics’ Hits

  • Amy: “mother!” & “Trophy”
  • Tim: “Brad’s Status” & “The Unknown Girl”

Mixed Feelings

  • Amy: “First They Killed My Father” & “Year By The Sea”
  • Tim: “First They Killed My Father” & “The Wilde Wedding”

Misses!

  • Amy: “American Assassin”

 

Guests:

Amy Nicholson, film critic for KPCC and host of The Canon; she tweets @TheAmyNicholson

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

 

FilmWeek: ‘The Layover,’ ‘Unlocked’ and more, plus Quentin Tarantino joins FilmWeek’s ‘Jackie Brown’ 20th anniversary screening…

Listen here:  FilmWeek: ‘The Layover,’ ‘Unlocked’ and more, plus Quentin Tarantino joins FilmWeek’s ‘Jackie Brown’ 20th anniversary screening

September 1st, 2017, 11:04am

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Tim Cogshell and Christy Lemire review this weekend’s new movie releases. We also air Larry’s conversations with director Quentin Tarantino and actor Robert Forster on the film “Jackie Brown” from KPCC’s In Person screening event at the Theater at Ace Hotel.
Premiere Of DIRECTV And Vertical Entertainment's "The Layover" - Arrivals

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

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Idris Elba stars in Columbia Pictures’ “The Dark Tower.”
LISTEN HERE:

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Tim Cogshell, Lael Lowenstein and Charles Solomon review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

Critics’ Hits

  • Lael: “Wind River,” “It’s Not Yet Dark” & “Step”
  • Charles: “Step”
  • Tim: “Some Freaks”

Mixed Feelings

  • Tim: “The Dark Tower”
  • Charles: “The Girl Without Hands”
  • Lael: “Some Freaks”

Misses!

  • Lael: “Kidnap”

Guests:

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine